Criminal Law

What Happens If You Violate Probation?

When an individual is convicted of a crime, they may be placed on probation as opposed to spending time in jail. In some cases, a person may plead guilty in exchange for being placed on probation to avoid jail or prison time. However, if the terms of probation are violated, it could result in significant penalties.

How Probation Is Violated

There are many ways in which a person could violate probation. For instance, if you were told not to drink alcohol or use the internet, you could be in violation if you drink a beer or check Facebook. Other violations could involve:

  • Not being home by a certain hour
  • Not paying fees and restitution ordered by the court
  • Committing other offenses
  • Failing to check in with the court as required

Typically, the court will give you a list of conditions that you must follow upon being placed on probation. You must generally indicate that you understand and agree to those conditions. In almost every state, the role of a probation officer is to help you understand the terms of probation and follow them at all times.

When Probation Is Violated, What Happens Next?

In general, a probation officer is legally required to notify the court if you fail to meet the conditions of probation. Once the court has been notified, the court will decide whether you should:

  • Get a warning or
  • Be required to appear before a judge

During this time, you and your attorney may begin gathering evidence to dispute the violation claim at a court hearing.

Warning or Request to Appear in Court

In most cases, you will receive written notification that a violation has been reported. After receiving this notification, you will have the right to respond. From there, the judge will make a determination as to whether you should be required to appear in court or whether a warning will suffice.

There are many factors that may go into determining whether you get a warning or whether you should be required to appear in court. The court may look at:

  • Whether this is your first violation
  • The type and severity of the condition you violated

In many cases, if you have not previously violated your probation, you will be given a warning. However, there is no guarantee as to what a judge may decide regardless of the circumstances in a given probation violation case.

Determination of a Probation Violation

When determining if a probation violation has occurred, the burden of proof is much lower compared to a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, a prosecutor must generally show that you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, in a probation violation case, the burden of proof is simply the preponderance of the evidence. This means that the prosecuting attorney only needs to show that you are more likely than not to have committed the violation.

Sentencing

If you are guilty of a probation violation, sentencing will take place a short time after the hearing. A judge will look at the evidence presented, the severity of the violation, whether the defendant is remorseful and whether that person is a risk to violate probation again.

The judge's sentence may vary depending on your situation. But generally, the judge may:

  • Impose additional terms on your probation
  • Extend your probation
  • Revoke your probation and sentence you to serve your remaining time in prison

Your Rights at a Probation Hearing

It is important that you are aware of your rights at your hearing to adequately defend yourself. In general, you have the right to:

  • Receive written notice of the accusations brought against you
  • Be represented by an attorney
  • Testify in your defense
  • Refuse to testify if your testimony may lead to self-incrimination
  • Introduce evidence that may help your case

An Attorney Can Help in Your Probation Case

A probation violation is a serious offense that carries with it severe penalties. If you are worried that you may have violated the terms of your probation or were accused of violating your probation, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney can explain your legal options and help protect your rights.