What is Shock Probation in Texas?

Austin Probation Lawyer Jason Trumpler

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"Shock probation" or more accurately "shock community supervision" is a provision in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure that allows a court to maintain jurisdiction over a case after a defendant has been sentenced to either county jail or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division.  Continuing jurisdiction in felony cases - other than state jail felonies - continues for a period of 180 days.  The same is true for misdemeanors.  Continuing jurisdiction lasts for a period of 180 days.  Essentially, "shock" allows a judge to temporarily send a defendant to prison or jail before returning him or her to the court and then re-sentencing him or her to community supervision. In essence, it is a scared straight provision found in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 42A.201 and 42A.202.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.202 covers felonies and states, in part, that after a judge sentences a defendant to prison, the judge retains jurisdiction over the case for a period of 180 days. Upon its own motion, motion from the state, or written motion of the defendant, the judge must conclude that the judge wants to suspend further execution of the sentence and place the defendant on community supervision. The judge can do this if the judge believes that the defendant would not benefit from further imprisonment, the defendant is otherwise eligible for community supervision, and that the defendant has never before been incarcerated in a penitentiary for a sentence involving a felony.

This means that a defendant can be sentenced to a term of confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division, but ordered back within 6 months to have his sentence converted to a community supervision sentence. It is a valuable tool for a defendant who has made a large mistake but has never gone to prison. It can be a beneficial way to keep someone from serving a lengthy prison sentence.

Often times, "shock" is negotiated before the prison sentence is pronounced, and it is understood by all parties involved that the judge or defendant will file a motion to have the defendant "shocked" back within a prescribed period of time.  

The provision on misdemeanors is roughly the same, but far less valuable since the maximum amount of time you can serve is 1 year.