Probation is a sentencing process that allows the offender to avoid jail or prison altogether. Instead of being confined, the person is allowed to resume to resume their normal activities in the community. However, in exchange for avoiding the jail sentence, the person will be required to abide by several terms and conditions which are determined by a judge. 

Probation periods typically last anywhere from 1-5 years. Violation of probation conditions can lead to additional legal consequences. It is worth noting that probation is different from parole, which allows a person to be released from jail after they have served at least a portion of the jail term.

What Are Some of the Terms and Conditions for Probation?

Some common probation conditions are:

  • Obeying court orders and judge mandates
  • Abiding by all laws and criminal statutes
  • Attending regular meetings with a probation officer
  • Abstaining from alcohol and drugs
  • Being subject to random alcohol and drug tests
  • Informing officers of any changes in residence or employment
  • Limitations on travel
  • Being subject to announced and unannounced visits from a probation officer

Thus, probation violation may occur if the offender avoids, refuses, ignores, or violates such conditions. 

What Are the Consequences for Violating Probation?

A judge has broad discretion to impose penalties for probation violations. State laws may also restrict the sentences. Depending on the severity of the violation and the underlying offense, disobeying probation terms can result in:

  • Revocation of probation privileges
  • Large monetary fines
  • A brief period in jail
  • Imposition of the original jail or prison sentence
  • Restitution

Other penalties for probation violations can include:

  • Attending mandatory rehabilitation programs
  • Performing community service
  • Enrollment in behavioral corrections program.

How Does the Probation Hearing Process Work?

When probation is violated, the violator will first receive either a warning or a request to appear in court for a hearing. At the hearing, a judge will determine whether probation was actually violated, and what the possible consequences should be. The judge will consider the nature and seriousness of the violation, as well as any prior history of violations. Repeat violations will lead to more severe punishments than for first-time violators. 
During the probation hearings, defendants have the following rights:

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the standard of proof is lower in a probation hearing than in a standard criminal trial. In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. In a probation violation hearing, the prosecutor only needs to prove the violation according to “preponderance of evidence” standards, which has been interpreted to mean a likelihood of greater than 50 percent.

Should I Hire a Criminal Attorney for Violations of Probation?

If you have been accused of violating probation, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer for advice before you proceed any further. It is important to understand your rights in a probation hearing in order to avoid and minimize further legal consequences, and most importantly, protect your freedom.