Probation Revocations in Georgia
If you are convicted of a crime in Georgia a person is placed on probation with terms and conditions. If you violate those conditions you can be brought back to court for violating your probation. This guide helps to explain the process is some detail.
Conditions of ProbationWhen a person is found guilty of a crime, either by way of trial or negotiated plea, that person is then placed on probation. Probation has rules that the person must follow; these are your 'conditions'. conditions of probation can include the following: reporting to your probation officer ("PO"), giving good contact information to your PO, paying fines & fees, not consuming illegal drugs, attending counseling or classes, and community service.
Depending on the case there are also conditions that relate to the offense. For example, if a person is convicted of a DUI then they would have to go to a DUI Risk Reduction School. This is just one example of many possibilities.
The conditions of probation are broken down to general and special categories. Violations for general conditions have a different punishment range that a violation of a special condition.
If you do not complete a condition of your probation then your PO may file a petition to revoke your probation. This simply means that you are not doing what the Court ordered you to do as part of your sentence. If you are arrested for a violation of probation ("VOP") there is a process that you go through.
There are many factors that go into the decision making process for someone charged with violating their probation. Factors like the original crime, how the probationer has done so far, what the violation is, and if there have been previous probation revocations are all taken into account during this process. Probation violations are serious matters and skilled counsel can help each step of the way.
Please keep in mind that not every probation will fit this mold. Issues like First Offender status and if the violation was a general or special condition of probation also factor into this process.
The WaiverOften times and in many locations, once a person is arrested for violating their probation the PO will submit a waiver. This is where the PO suggests a punishment for the violation and the probationer agrees to the terms of the waiver as punishment for the violations.
An easy way to think about this is to think of it like pleading guilty to the violation and entering a plea deal to it. The analogy is not a perfect one, but it helps many people understand the nature of what is going on. Waivers can cover a wide range of possibilities and there is no set schedule. This means that there is no hard and fast rule that your first violation means you will get a waiver for a certain thing. The worse the violation of probation the harsher the waiver typically is.
A person can retain a lawyer to negotiate with probation about the terms of the waiver to come to an agreed upon resolution for the violation that has occurred. However, sometimes a waiver will not be issued or the party may not wish to sign it. In that case the person goes on to the next steps.
Admit and ArgueSometimes an individual will not like the waiver that was submitted by the PO, and the sides cannot agree to an outcome. In that case the party has the option to 'admit and argue'. This means that the person admits to the violation of probation but they want to argue to the Judge about the sentence that they want to receive. It can be helpful to think about this almost like an open plea to the Court when closing a criminal case.
In essence the party argues that yes they committed the violation by that they want a different sentence than the PO is offering in the wavier. Witnesses can be called and a person has the right to be represented at such a hearing.
Contested HearingThere are instances where a person is charged with violating their probation, but they wish to contest the violations claimed. This is done through a contested hearing.
A hearing for a violation of probation is heard in front of a Judge without a jury. The State has to prove the violation by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a reduced standard than what is required to show that a person committed a new charge. At trial, a person has to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but a probation violation merely requires that it is more likely than not that the person committed the violation. This reduced standard makes it easier for the State to prove that a person violated their probation.
However, skilled representation can help a person defend themselves from a probation violation. Just because the standard is reduced does not mean that someone cannot fight a VOP and win.