After an arrest, one of your biggest concerns may be avoiding jail time. It may be a relief to get probation instead of jail. However, the restrictions that come with probation may be so harsh that it may seem impossible to stay in compliance and stay out of jail.
A minor violation does not have to end with going to jail. Talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer for legal advice about your situation.
Probation is a type of penalty after a criminal conviction that is usually an alternative to serving time in jail or prison. Someone could also have to serve probation after getting out of prison. Probation involves an agreement between you and the court to follow the conditions of probation in exchange for staying out of prison. However, if you breach the terms of the agreement, you may have to go to jail or deal with increased supervision and harsher conditions.
A prison sentence is very damaging for most people's lives. It means the loss of their job, schooling, and takes time away from family. Even a short jail sentence may make it difficult for someone to get back on their feet after an arrest. This is one reason probation makes more sense for most minor criminal offenses.
Depending on the state, many misdemeanor, non-violent, and first-time offenses can be eligible for probation after a guilty plea or verdict. Some judges are limited in which types of criminal offenses are eligible for probation, but judges generally have some authority to decide whether the defendant is a good candidate for probation.
There are usually a lot of conditions associated with probation. This includes supervision by a probation officer (PO). You usually must report regularly to the PO while also being subject to surprise visits at your home or work. The probation period can last for months or years depending on the criminal offense. Some probation conditions include:
The terms of your probation are generally related to the criminal charges. For example, a drunk driving arrest may involve using an ignition lock on your car and attending DUI school. A domestic violence offense may require counseling and prohibited contact with the victim. Computer crimes could result in computer and internet use restrictions.
Probation often requires the probationer to pay for the costs and expenses associated with probation. Over time, this can end up costing a lot of money. Probation may require paying out for:
Missing some of these payments may be considered a probation violation. Some states have resources for people who cannot afford to pay the costs of probation. This may include payment plans or reduced costs for people who make under a certain amount of income.
When you agree to probation, there are usually clear terms for what happens if you commit a probation violation. The first step is a court hearing, where the judge will determine the penalties. For a minor violation, the court may issue a warning or an additional condition to your probation.
Other penalties for a probation violation may include enhanced restrictions. This could require more regular reporting to your probation officer, more surprise visits, a curfew, drug and alcohol testing, or any other restrictions and reporting requirements.
Multiple violations or serious violations can result in immediate jail or prison time by revoking probation. This could include imposing the maximum jail term under the state penal codes.
If you are concerned about the terms of your probation and whether you are at risk to violate, you may be able to petition the court to change the terms. The court may be more willing to relax the restrictions after serving a period without any problems. You may also be able to get permission from the probation officers or the court to travel outside the state.
If your probation officer claims you are violating or violated your probation, you may have the right to a probation hearing. Generally, you have the right to a criminal defense attorney for a revocation hearing to present evidence on your behalf and fight for your rights. An experienced attorney may even offer a free consultation to evaluate your probation violation. If you had probation revoked, you may have a chance to appeal the judge's decision. A criminal defense attorney should know how these hearings work and what it takes for a successful outcome. If you are facing a return to prison, it is not something you should try to handle alone.