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Do You Need a Lawyer For Your Probation Violations?

There’s a lot of confusion that surrounds probation. Many people who are on probation sentences may not know exactly what they can/cannot do, or the consequences of violating guidelines set by the court. As a result, it isn’t unusual for people to find themselves facing a probation hearing. Everyone under probation should be aware that probations are actually a form of deferred sentencing. In other words, probations are designed to act as a paused jail sentence so you can engage in other activities such as work or community service.

There are many different ways through which probation can be violated. It could be as simple as missing a counseling session, or as complicated as committing additional crimes. Due to the complexity of probation laws and the consequences of violation, it’s always a good idea to have an experienced attorney by your side. A lawyer can help you avoid stiffer fines, a longer probation period, or even possible jail time.  

Types of probation violations (apple)

A probation violation occurs in any event where you ignore, refuse, or violate the terms of your probation. A judge will typically set these terms, and they may be supervised by a probation officer who you’ll need to report to on a regular basis. Your probation may also be unsupervised. In such cases, violations are reported by the clerk or relevant body that may be charged with overseeing probation activity. While there are numerous ways of violating probation, two specific violations could increase your risk of getting a jail sentence: a new conviction for criminal offenses and absconding the terms of probation.

In the case of new criminal offenses, a judge may choose to enforce the original jail sentence for which you were on probation. This is done because you may no longer be deemed to behave in a safe or responsible manner (as was expected during your probation period). The more serious the crime committed, the more likely you are to serve your jail sentence.

Defendants could also end up in jail because of absconding probation. Absconding occurs when no officials from the court can contact you, and you also end up avoiding appointments, community service, or other responsibilities. The ideal scenario is for defendants to be readily available when contacted. This means that your probation officer, clerk of the court, or other personnel should be able to receive regular updates from your end.

In addition to more serious probation violations, there are also other circumstances where you may end up going against rules set by the court. Some common violations that defendants commit include:

  • Missing court appearances of meetings with probation officers
  • Failing to pay required fines
  • Use of illegal drugs or restricted substances
  • Traveling out of state without permission

Consequences of probation violations (criminal)

There are many different consequences that may arise from a probation violation. Furthermore, court officials have wide discretion over how to enforce or report such violations. This is why having a defense attorney by your side is critical. Defense lawyers can draw on their experience and knowledge of the law to consider how severe your violation is, past probation issues, and the original sentencing period. These details are critical because probation officials use the same criteria to determine the penalties or consequences of each violation incident.

In most cases, an initial technical violation (such as missing a meeting with your probation officer) may result in a warning. Repeated or more serious violations may amount to a court appearance, where a judge will review your case to determine the most appropriate punishment. Court appearances could easily result in a jail sentence being handed out. This is why any incident of violation should be reported to a defense lawyer so you can determine the best course of action moving forward.

When do you need an attorney for probation violations?

A lawyer can assist during probation violations in many different ways. Not only do they help you argue your case in front of a judge, but they also advocate for your rights during the process. For example, a lawyer can help you avoid sentencing if you never received written notice of the violation or if the judge wasn’t neutral to your case.

There should also be adequate evidence that supports the crime you allegedly committed. However, the evidence presented in support of probation violations only needs to pass a “preponderance of evidence”. This means that rather than the prosecution having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, they only need to meet the threshold of “more probable than not.” In other words, they would only need to show it was more probable than not that you violated probation. This often makes probation hearings more complicated- and the more reason why you should have a reputable attorney by your side. 

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