At 8 a.m. on July 6, six felony probationers were warned by Chief Judge Randal Valenciano that from now on, anyone who tests positive for drugs or misses an appointment with their probation officer will automatically go to jail. “No-shows” will be tracked down by the police. Violators who turn themselves in will serve less time than “no-shows,” but they will still serve jail time.
After this initial “warning hearing,” the probationers will have to call the court each morning to learn whether they must report for a random drug test that same day. Failure to make the daily telephone call results in the immediate issuance of a bench warrant. Conducting the drug test on the day of the telephone call does not give probationers enough time to detoxify between highs and evade the tests.
The six probationers are the first offenders to enter the Fifth Circuit’s new, Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement program, or HOPE Probation. The goal is to have 20 high risk probationers in HOPE. Warning hearings and HOPE-related motions will be handled by Judges Valenciano and Kathleen Watanabe in addition to their regular caseloads.
Offenders placed in HOPE face swift and certain jail time for violating probation. The amount of jail time that must be served will be decided by the judge based on the circumstances involving the violation and can range from a few days to months.
“In short, sex offenders, domestic violence and drug offenders in HOPE are being monitored and supervised closer and more frequently than ever before, and held to a higher level of accountability,” said Judge Valenciano. “HOPE will keep offenders out of prison, save taxpayer dollars and increase public safety.”