What Happens if you Violate Probation?

When an individual is convicted of a crime, he or she 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 in lieu of 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 a person is told not to drink alcohol or use the internet, it could be a violation to drink a beer or check Facebook. Other violations could involve not being home by a certain hour or failing to check in with the court as required.

Typically, a person is given a list of conditions that must be followed upon being placed on probation. A defendant must generally indicate that he or she understands and agrees to those conditions. In almost every state, the role of a probation officer is to further help a person 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 the conditions of probation have not been met. Once the court has been notified that conditions of probation have not been met, the next step is to determine whether a person gets a warning or is required to appear before a judge. During this time, both the person accused of a violation as well as that person's attorney may begin gathering evidence to be used to dispute the violation claim at a court hearing.

Warning or Request to Appear in Court

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

There are many factors that may go into determining whether a person gets a warning or is required to appear in court. In many cases, those who have not previously violated their probation 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 it comes to determining if a probation violation occurred, the burden of proof is much lower compared to a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, a prosecutor must generally show that a crime occurred beyond reasonable doubt. However, in a probation violation case, the burden of proof is simply the preponderance of the evidence. What this means is that it needs to be more likely than not that a violation occurred.


Typically, sentencing in a probation violation case takes place a short period of time after the hearing occurs. A judge will take the evidence that he or she has received from the prosecution and the defense in making a decision. The judge will also take into account the severity of the violation, whether the defendant is remorseful that the violation occurred and whether that person is a risk to violate probation again.

Legal Rights at a Probation Hearing

As a probation violation hearing deals with a crime in which a person could go to jail, an individual is allowed to have an attorney present. This person may introduce evidence just like in any other criminal proceeding. In many cases, a person has the opportunity to testify in his or her defense or refuse to testify if that may lead to self-incrimination.

Penalties and Punishments for Violating Probation

If a person is required to appear in court, it is possible that additional penalties may be sought. If the violation was deemed to be a minor one, the penalties may be as minor as additional fines or spending extra time on probation. A judge may also decide to impose additional restrictions on what a person can and cannot do while on probation.

Those who have been charged with a probation violation may wish to talk with an attorney as soon as possible. Doing so may make it easier to create a defense against the accusation or to make an effort to keep any additional penalties imposed to a minimum. This may help an individual avoid spending time in jail or prison, which may pose a significant interruption to his or her life.

Speak With an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today

An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense.

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