Violation of Probation (VOP) in Hillsborough County, Florida
A probation violation can have terrible consequences to your life and liberty. Whether you’re on felony probation or misdemeanor probation, you must understand that the State Attorney and the Judges view probation almost as a considerate gift to criminal defendants in Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk, Pasco, Manatee, and Sarasota County. When you have been accused of violating probation (VOP), the judicial system grants you far less protections than if you were charged with a normal new crime. If you believe your probation officer is going to accuse you of violating probation, it’s vital that you contact an experienced VOP Attorney who can keep you out of jail or prison and resolve your VOP.
How can you be accused of a VOP? There are two kinds of probation violations: technical and substantive. Technical violations are when you’ve been accused of not following some technical requirement of probation like failing to pay costs, missing a probation meeting, failing to complete a court ordered class like DUI school, etc. Substantive violations are when you pick up a new criminal charge. Prosecutors and Judges in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, Manatee and Polk County treat substantive violations of probation with a heavy fist.
Substantive probation violations are particularly dangerous because even if your attorney is successful in getting the new charge dismissed, where the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, the State can prove only “by the preponderance of the evidence" at your VOP hearing that you committed the new charge. You have no right to a jury trial in these VOP hearings and you can even be compelled to testify against yourself.
Why is a VOP such a big deal? For one, when you’re accused by your Probation Officer of violating probation, the PO asks the Judge to sign a warrant for your arrest. Most often, these VOP Arrest Warrants do not have a bond provision, meaning that unless you hire an experienced VOP attorney, you can be held for weeks until your next scheduled court date in front of the judge to hear the allegations. An experienced VOP attorney can request that you turn yourself in and be granted a reasonable bond.
If you are found to have violated probation, the Judge can sentence you to the maximum penalty for the original charge that you were placed on probation for.
Let’s say you’re a college student who has had no serious record and you were placed on probation for possession of cocaine and agreed to do 18 months of probation. If you violate probation or fail to complete its terms, the judge could legally sentence you to five years in state prison.
Are there any defenses to a VOP? Thankfully, there are some defenses. For example, if the violation of probation was not willful, or substantial, the judge has the authority to dismiss the violation. Or even if you are found to be in violation, a Tampa VOP attorney could mitigate the sentence and have you placed back on probation to allow you time to successfully complete the original sentence, avoiding jail or prison.
Hillsborough County Felony VOP hearings are particularly unique. One single Judge, Judge Daniel Perry hears technical violations and substantive violations involving new misdemeanor charges. A large number of his cases involve defendants on felony probation for drug charges, who are found to have failed a urine test, resulting in a technical violation. Judge Perry demands one thing: always tell the truth. Judge Perry will ask a Defendant on the record in open court who he or she obtained the drugs from. It behooves defendants to answer this question honestly, because this is not Judge Perry’s first proverbial rodeo. Judge Perry will often times find that alleged drug dealer’s picture and display it on a large screen in his court. Or he will even sometimes call that drug dealer from a telephone on his bench during live court proceedings. While it often makes for a comedic afternoon, the consequences of failing to be prepared for the VOP hearing are not funny at all.