VIOLATIONS OF PROBATION
State and Federal judges order people to serve Probation as an alternative to sentencing someone to jail or prison. It lets the court system move cases and gives people a chance to show they can live crime-free. But what is Probation and how do you commit a Violation of Probation?
What Is Probation?
Probation lets the court system supervise you while out of custody. It’s an unspoken partnership between a judge and corrections to keep you living honestly. It gives you a set of rules to follow for a fixed period of time.
If you’re sentenced to Probation, a Probation Officer instructs you on the terms of your release. Then you sign some forms with the rules. Generally, the conditions of release include reporting to probation, not committing any new crimes and submitting to random drug testing. Most of the time, people check in monthly either in person or over the phone. Also, you must keep your address current so they know where to find you if they choose to search your home. They can search your home without notice. Check out this blog post about a case striking down an order allowing police to search you and your home while on probation.
Besides the standard conditions, judges may add special conditions to your supervision. However, these terms must relate to the facts of your case. For instance, judges order people convicted of Theft to pay back the money they stole. They order people convicted of Battery to stay away from the people they hit. They may order people convicted of drug offenses to attend drug treatment.
Types of Probation
Although this sums up Probation, Florida offers a few varieties of supervision. A more restrictive form of supervision, called Community Control, requires you to follow a preapproved schedule. Community Control Officers keep a limited number of cases to make sure they can check on you at a moment’s notice. While Probation Officers might not look to violate you, Community Control Officers monitor your every move. Often, you wear an electronic monitor to make sure you follow your schedule. Sometimes, they step down their intensity if you prove that you follow the rules.
Florida singles out one type of offender with severe restrictions: Sex Offenders. Specially trained Probation Officers handle these cases and create plans for each individual. The intensive supervision includes therapy as well as the regular conditions. It might include electronic monitoring because the law limits where Sex Offenders can live and hang out.
Drug Offender Probation offers a more intense version of Probation for people with a drug problem. Like Sex Offender Probation, it includes treatment plans for each individual.
Mail In and Administrative Probation
On the other hand, Florida offers lighter choices. If you plea to a misdemeanor, most counties offer “Mail In” Probation. Those people don’t have to report in person every month. Administrative Probation is even easier because there’s only one rule: don’t get arrested.
It Can Get Better or Worse
Keep in mind, you can always file a motion to reduce your level of supervision. If you do well on Community Control, the judge can convert your sentence to probation. You might even have your supervision terminated early or switched to Administrative Probation. Sometimes, judges end probation early if you serve most without violating. It only gets worse if you violate.
What Happens If I Commit a Violation of Probation?
Breaking the rules results in a Violation of Probation. You can break the rules in one of two ways: technical or new law violations. Technical violations occur when you don’t follow the rules. Maybe you failed to report to Probation every month. Maybe you didn’t repay the money you stole before Probation expires. If so, your Probation Officer drafts an affidavit alleging your violation. If you get arrested for a crime, you commit a new law, or substantive, violation. Judges take these more seriously than technical violations.
If you violate, your Probation Officer writes an affidavit and notifies your judge. If your judge finds probable cause that you violated, the judge can sign a warrant for your arrest. Most Violation of Probation warrants keep you in jail without bond. If you’re lucky, the judge sets a reprimand hearing, instead of a violation. At reprimand hearings, they threaten you with a violation, but let you go.
A day or two after your arrest, the judge holds your First Violation of Probation hearing. At this hearing, the judge reads to you the accusations. You get to admit or deny your violation. You can negotiate these with the prosecutor, plea open to the judge or ask for a Final Violation of Probation hearing. At that hearing, the prosecutor must prove the violations alleged in the affidavit or it’s dismissed. If the judge reinstates Probation, you stay supervised. If the judge revokes probation, you’re most likely going to prison.
Recent Cases on Violations of Probation
Check out my blog post on a Final Violation of Probation hearing where the State fails to meet its burden. Here’s a blog post on a Violation of Probation sentencing error gone wrong, as the judge gives jail credit and then takes it away.
Talk to An Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
Like with open cases, you can file motions to suppress and make the government prove the allegations. But your constitutional protections don’t extend as far as they do before conviction. Violations of Probation are considered sentencing hearings. Mr. Brown has handled hundreds of these and argued lots of full blown evidentiary Final Violations of Probation. Upon arrest, you should speak with him immediately to see if he can help you fight the allegations.
The criminal defense firm Brown Legal PLLC operates from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but regularly handles cases throughout South Florida and the rest of the state. Before it’s too late, talk to Mr. Brown to see if he can help you with your case! Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.