Probation refers to a period of court supervision that is most often ordered in lieu of incarceration or after a defendant has been released on parole. The Office of Community Corrections reports that there are currently over 164,000 individuals on probation throughout Florida.
Individuals on probation are subject to monitoring through contacts at their residences, employment sites, and other locations in the community. Non-compliance with the terms of probation is reported to the sentencing or releasing authority and can result in significant penalties.
Common Probation Violations
Probation violations can encompass a wide range of behaviors, but some of the most common include:
- Committing another crime while on probation
- Missing a required appointment with your probation officer without a valid excuse
- Failing to attend a court hearing
- Not paying court-ordered fines or restitution
- Failing to complete community service that is required as part of your sentence
- Visiting places or people linked to criminal activity
- Failing to find employment or attend school
- Having a positive drug screen
- Not completing a required substance abuse treatment program
A violation for an offense that is not illegal on its own, such as missing an appointment, is called a technical violation. A violation for an offense that could potentially result in new criminal charges, such as drug possession, is called a substantive violation.
What to Expect After a Probation Violation
If your probation officer reports that you have violated the terms of your probation, the court will review the allegations and potentially issue a warrant for your arrest. If you are arrested, you’ll likely be placed on “no bond” status and required to remain in jail until bond can be requested.
A violation of probation (VOP) hearing provides you with less legal protection than what you’d expect if you were charged with a new crime. Since you have already been found guilty of an offense and are now accused of violating the terms of your sentence, you forfeit some of the protections you’d normally receive. For example:
- Your probation officer may be the state’s only witness.
- The court can make you testify against yourself.
- Hearsay is admissible.
- You are not entitled to a jury trial.
- There is no statute of limitations.
In a VOP hearing, your guilt must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence instead of beyond a reasonable doubt. This means the prosecutor must only prove it is more likely than not that you violated the terms of your probation—a standard that is much easier to meet and thus makes it vital that you have adequate legal representation.
Potential Penalties for a Probation Violation
The penalties you’ll face for a probation violation depend on the severity of the allegation against you, the crime you were first charged with, and your previous criminal record. However, there are three general outcomes:
- Revocation. The judge chooses to end your probation and impose any sentence associated with the original charge—including time behind bars.
- Modification. New conditions are added to your probation or the probationary period is extended.
- Reinstatement. Your probation continues with only a warning against future violations.
Violating probation for a serious or violent felony offense is most likely to result in revocation, while probation violations for first-time technical violations on a non-violent offense are most likely to result in modification. Reinstatement of probation is rare.
How an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
To reduce the risk of incarceration for a probation violation, you need to consult an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you prepare for your VOP hearing and ensure your rights are protected throughout the process. Since the courts have broad discretion in determining how probation violations are handled, your attorney can also present any mitigating evidence that would support a more lenient punishment.
At George Reres Law, we represent individuals charged with a wide range of offenses—including burglary, robbery and theft, and assault and battery. When our clients have been accused of a probation violation, we will listen to their story, explain their options, and help them determine the best way to move forward. Call us at (954) 523-3811 or fill out our contact form to request a confidential consultation.