There are three types of situations that give rise to violations of probation
- A charge of a new criminal offense, separate from the original case which is now the subject of an alleged violation of probation. Even if the new offense is not actually charged by the District Attorney as a new case, the facts of the new incident may be used to support a violation of probation.
- Failure to appear for a variety of court-required appointments such as further court appearances, sheriff's work alternative program (SWAP), AA meetings and proof thereof, and worst of all, missing an appointment with your probation officer.
- Failure to pay your fine or to enroll or complete a court-required rehabilitation program (such as a Drinking Driver program).
What are your rights at a hearing for an alleged violation of probation?
Probationers are entitled to a court hearing with many of the same rights that one has in a criminal jury trial, but not all. Probationers are not entitled to a jury, they may be held longer in custody before any hearing takes place, and the burden of proof on the government is lower, thus making the violation easier to prove against you. Also, the burden of proof at a violation of probation hearing is less than at a trial. So, while the prosecution may feel that it does not have enough evidence to convince a jury of the new charge beyond a reasonable doubt, it may go with the much easier to prove violation of probation of the earlier case.
Types of cases that end up in violation of probation hearings
DUI probation violations are the most common, if for no other reason than their relative number compared to other cases. If the alleged violation involves a new episode of the client drinking and driving, the punishment may result, in the worst cases, in sentences of ninety (90) days or more of real jail time.
In the case of felony probation, the client faces the possible revocation of the original probation and a sentence to a number of years in the State Prison.
Probation violation cases are as serious, if not more so, than the original case or any new case.
A Violation of Probation case requires the same diligent and competent defense as any new case. A good lawyer's goal, as with a new criminal case, is to reduce or eliminate your exposure to real jail time to the best of his or her ability.
Since the jail time in any case is usually suspended in whole or in part, that remaining jail time may be more likely imposed at a probation violation hearing than at the hearing for the original case. In any event, do not underestimate the seriousness of the consequences of a probation violation matter, not the need for excellent defense counsel.