What should you know about probation violations?

Probation is a type of criminal sentence that allows a person to remain in the community rather than serve time in jail or prison if they comply with certain conditions. These conditions may include reporting to a probation officer, undergoing drug testing, attending counseling and refraining from certain activities.

Failing to meet the required conditions can lead to a probation violation, which can result in serious consequences. Understanding the basic “ins and outs” of violations may help probationers complete their sentencing terms successfully without serving any time behind bars.

Warnings versus charges for probation violations

The consequences of a probation violation depend on several factors, including the nature and seriousness of the violation, the individual’s probation history and whether it’s a first-time violation. If a probation officer determines that a violation has occurred, they may issue a warning or require the offender to attend a probation violation hearing.

A warning is typically granted for minor first-time violations. A probation officer may reinforce the importance of adhering to the probation conditions. More serious violations or repeated infractions can lead to formal charges, where the offender may face stricter probation conditions, extended probation or even incarceration.

Bench trial instead of a jury trial for probation violations

Probation violation hearings are decided by a judge in a bench trial rather than a jury trial. This means that a judge hears the evidence and makes a ruling rather than a group of peers. In a bench trial, the prosecutor needs only to show a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it’s more likely than not that the probation violation occurred. This standard is lower than the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt that’s used in criminal trials.

If the judge finds the offender guilty of the violation, penalties can range from additional probation conditions to revocation of the probation entirely. Revoked probation means the individual may be required to serve their original jail or prison sentence.

Facing a probation violation is challenging since you must make your case to the judge instead of a jury. Seeking legal guidance is crucial so you can determine what defense strategy is most appropriate for you and will best allow you to safeguard your interests.