Violating Probation

Convicted criminals are sentenced for their crimes. The range of criminal sentences varies significantly depending on the crime committed and the perpetrator’s criminal record. Probation is often part, or all, of a criminal sentence.   Instead of serving jail time during the probation period, the criminal is “out” or “free” on probation under the supervision of a probation officer who is responsible for making sure that the person follows the terms of the probation as decided by the sentencing judge. 

The terms of the probation vary according to the severity of the crime, the other parts of the imposed sentence and the criminal history of the criminal. A judge may, for example, require that the person not leave the jurisdiction, remain employed, remain drug free, respect a curfew, and not have any contact with children, for example. If the criminal breaks any of the terms of probation then he or she has violated his probation.

The Probation Officer

The assigned probation officer is responsible for checking on and monitoring the progress of the criminal/convict. The convict's probation officer also has the responsibility to notify the court or the prosecutor if he or she suspects that probation has been violated.  While the probation officer does have some discretion and may not report the first violation of a curfew, for example, the probation officer is likely to report all repeated violations or serious violations of probation. The prosecutor can file a complaint and the judge can hold a probation revocation hearing to determine if probation was violated. Violation probation can (and often does) result in judicial consequences - including incarceration.

The prosecutor must prove that the defendant violated his probation by a preponderance of the evidence at the probation revocation hearing unless the violation of the probation involved the possible commission of a new crime, such as drug use. If it is determined that the terms of probation were violated then probation may be revoked and the criminal may be incarcerated for the remainder of the probation period. 

Sometimes, upon finding a criminal guilty of violating the terms of probation, a judge may decide not to incarcerate the individual. Instead, the judge may reissue a sentence of probation. However, this time the terms of probation are likely to be more severe and the supervision of the probation is likely to be more significant. A criminal has the right to appeal a revocation of his or her probation.

What to Do If You’ve Been Accused of Violating Probation

It is important to contact a criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of violating your probation terms. The consequences for violating probation can be significant, as described above. Your criminal defense attorney can help you make sure that your legal rights are protected at each stage of the proceeding and that you receive a fair hearing. There are defenses that you can raise if you are accused of violating your probation. 

For example, in some states the violation must have been willful and substantial. Your criminal defense attorney will advise you about the laws in your state and represent you in all probation violation hearings and appeals.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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