A probation violation is an offense that occurs when you break the terms or conditions of your probation.
The punishment for probation violation usually depends on a variety of factors, such as the nature and seriousness of the violation, whether you have any prior violations, and whether there are other circumstances that may lessen (or worsen) the severity of the situation. A probation violation sentence may result in significant penalties, such as heavy fines, extended probation, jail time, or more.
Probation violation laws vary among the states and are governed by federal and state law. Generally, a probation violation occurs when you ignore, avoid, refuse, or otherwise break the terms or conditions of your probation at any time during the probation period. Probation typically runs from one to three years, but may also last for several years depending on the original offense.
Probation may be violated in many different ways. Circumstances that may lead to a probation violation include:
There is no set rule as to what happens immediately after a probation violation is reported. Probation officers have broad discretion to issue a warning or require you to appear in court for a probation violation hearing. In deciding, a probation officer may consider the severity and type of condition violated, past probation violations or warnings, and other considerations. If you're requested to appear in court, the probation officer will request some form of penalty, which may potentially include jail time.
During a probation hearing, a sentencing judge will hear your case to consider whether you violated any terms or conditions of your probation. The prosecuting attorney will need to prove a violation occurred by a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, or by a likelihood of more than 50 percent. Factors a judge might consider include the nature, type, and seriousness of the violation claimed, as well as a history of prior probation violations and other aggregating or mitigating circumstances.
If you're found guilty of a probation violation, sentencing will occur shortly after the hearing, at which time the court may extend your probation, impose additional probation terms, order you serve a brief time in jail, or revoke your probation altogether and require you to serve out any remaining time of your original sentence in prison. Factors a judge may consider in determining your sentence may include the nature and manner of the offense and whether the offender was a "first-time" or "repeat" offender, among other considerations.
If you're facing probation violation charges, it's important to know your legal rights to minimize or avoid additional penalties and consequences. Generally, you have the right to:
A local attorney or other expert legal advisers can help you understand the rights available to you at a probation hearing in your particular state.
Judges have broad discretion to impose jail sentences or other penalties for probation violations, subject to the maximum limits of a particular state statute. Some of the lighter penalties for violating your probation include having to perform community service, attend rehabilitation, "boot camp," or other programs aimed at correcting the behavior. Other, more serious, penalties include having to pay large fines or restitution (monetary fines to victims) or having to serve a brief time in jail. The judge may also revoke your probation altogether and require you to serve the remaining terms of your original sentence in prison.