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Posted by attorney Robert Nye

Probation is a very real sentence. Probation puts a defendant under the court’s strict supervision, through a probation officer, for a certain period of time. Most of the time, whether dealing with a felony or misdemeanor case, a probation sentence means you avoid jail time. Many defendants do not take probation seriously, though, and end up having the probation officer file a complaint against them seeking to revoke the probation. If this occurs, you can be assured that the defendant will spend the remainder balance of the probated sentence in jail. A lawyer can represent you at your probation hearing and argue against revocation. Here are a few tips to avoid common pitfalls for defendants on probated sentences.

  • Not paying fines. Many defendants are revoked on probation for not paying their court ordered fines and court costs. It is FAR better to pay something than not pay anything at all. The court wants to at least to see an effort. Therefore, make sure you pay something!
  • Don’t commit new crimes. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s probably the most common reason for revocation. Traffic violations generally won’t get you revoked, but other misdemeanors or felonies can. If you are charged with a new crime while on probation, contact an attorney immediately to prepare to fight the revocation!
  • Report to probation! Don’t miss your probation meetings. Probation officers are busy folks and the more you comply with probation, the more likely they are going to treat you favorably. No matter how bad things get in your life, always make sure you communicate with your probation officer and let them know what’s going on. Often times, they may have solutions to those problems.

District attorneys often try to use probation revocation hearings BEFORE a trial on new allegations. The standard of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence! That’s the same as the civil court standard of “more likely than not" versus the much heavier criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt." Don’t be railroaded by this tactic!

Finally, defendants are often arrested on a probation revocation warrant requested by the probation officer. A defense attorney can seek a probation bond. If granted, this will prevent you from sitting in jail for weeks or months at a time waiting for a probation revocation hearing. An attorney can often force the State to schedule the hearing.

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