What is probation?
When a criminal case is resolved, whether it be by plea negotiation or through sentencing after a trial, it is not uncommon for individuals to be placed on probation for a specified length of time. Probation allows for the individual to be monitored ensuring they complete all of the required sanctions imposed by the judge. These sanctions may include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following: community service hours, weekend work, fines, no trespass orders, no contact orders, substance abuse evaluations, anger management, etc. Also, depending on the type of crime committed, there may be random drug tests and/or the imposition of a no alcohol rule during the term of the probation. The individual will typically meet with a probation officer who will advise them of all of the conditions of probation.
What if I violate my probation?
If an individual fails to comply with the terms of their probation, the probation officer will file an affidavit that alleges the violation of probation. A violation of probation can have serious consequences. The filing of the affidavit typically results in the person’s arrest. Unfortunately, an arrest for a violation of probation usually results in the person being incarcerated without the possibility of bond until the date if their hearing which may be several weeks away.
At the probation hearing, if the judge finds that the individual violated the terms of their probation, the judge may impose any sentence that he may have imposed at the time of the original sentencing. Furthermore, if the judge originally withheld adjudication, the judge will typically now impose an adjudication of guilt. This means that the individual’s criminal record will now reflect a formal conviction. For certain offenses, this can carry additional indirect consequences. For example, if someone were to plea to a marijuana charge and receive a withhold of adjudication with twelve months of probation and then are subsequently adjudicated guilty for a violation of probation, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can then suspend their drivers license for a year.
What is the difference between a violation of probation hearing and a trial?
A violation of probation hearing is different than a trial in several important respects. First, there is no right to a jury in a violation of probation hearing. The judge is the trier of fact meaning that the judge will ultimately decide if probation was violated. Second, the prosecutor need only prove a violation by a “preponderance of the evidence” as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A preponderance of the evidence is a lower burden of proof, making it easier to prove. Basically, the prosecutor must prove that it is more likely than not that the terms of the probation were violated (some define this as 51%). Another important distinction is that hearsay is admissible in a violation of probation hearing (though it cannot form the only basis of a violation).
What if I didn’t intentionally violate the terms of my probation?
A violation of probation must be “willful” and “substantial.” There are many situations in which an individual may be charged with a violation for which they could not avoid. For example, a person may lose their job and be unable to pay the fines and court costs associated with probation. Another example may be a person that is hospitalized or incapacitated for a period of time and be unable to complete community service hours or weekend work. Someone might be involved in a car accident and might miss a scheduled appointment with a probation officer. These are just a few examples of situations in which the State may be unable to prove a “willful and substantial” violation.
Contact a Violation of Probation Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of a violation of probation in the State of Florida and would like to Contact a Violation of Probation Attorney, please call 239-775-1004. Consultations are absolutely free and completely confidential.
Verderamo Law is committed to providing legal representation primarily in the fields of criminal law and personal injury law. While our offices are situated in Naples and Ft. Myers, Florida, we proudly represent clients throughout Collier and Lee Counties and their surrounding areas, including, but not limited to, Naples, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Golden Gate, Immokalee, Lehigh, and Marco Island. Verderamo Law is located at 2662 Airport Pulling Rd S Naples, FL 34112. For more information, call (239) 775-1004.