Reporting to your probation officer, following all of the rules and conditions of probation, and living with the threat of prison constantly over your head can make you feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
The only thing worse than being on probation is losing probation and being sent to prison…
What is Probation?
Probation is considered a privilege. You don’t have a right to a probationary sentence, no one is entitled to probation, and the State can easily take it away if they believe that you are not complying with the conditions of your probation.
When you are placed on probation, you actually receive an active prison sentence. Then, the judge suspends that sentence provided that you comply with all of the terms of probation. If you violate the terms of your probation, the State can then bring you back into court and ask a judge to end your probation and make you serve the prison sentence instead.
What Causes the State to Revoke Your Probation?
There are many things that could cause the State to take away your probationary sentence including:
- Violating any of the conditions of your probation that are spelled out either in the judge’s order or the written documents that your probation officer gave to you.
- Failing drug tests.
- Failing to maintain employment or enrollment in school.
- Not showing up for your scheduled appointments with your probation officer.
- Absconding (disappearing or skipping town).
- Being charged with a new crime – you do not have to be convicted of the new crime for a court to revoke your probation.
- Not completing community service that was assigned as a condition of probation.
- Not paying your supervision fees, court costs, or any restitution that was ordered by the court.
In many cases, minor violations may be handled “in-house,” for example, with the probation officer agreeing to allow you to complete drug treatment instead of hauling you back into court. In general, probation officers do not want to revoke a person’s probation. But, they will do their job and seek a probation revocation if they think that you are violating the conditions of your probation.
Probation Revocations & Probation Violation Hearings
The process of revoking a person’s probation often begins with an administrative hearing conducted by a hearing officer. At this early stage, you are entitled to have an attorney present and it is in your best interests to retain an attorney immediately, as soon as you receive notice of the administrative hearing.
In many cases, the probation violations can be resolved with the administrative hearing officer and you may avoid a probation revocation in the Circuit Court. On the other hand, if the hearing officer finds that you are in violation and your probation should be revoked, you will be sent on to the Circuit Court where you get a second chance to argue your case.
For serious allegations of probation violations, you’ll have to go to the Circuit Court and see a judge at a probation violation hearing. At this hearing, the judge will listen to evidence and consider arguments from both the probation officer/prosecution and your defense lawyer. The judge will then decide whether you violated your probation and what the consequences will be.
What Happens if Your Probation is Revoked
It’s not as cut and dry as guilty or not-guilty. There are many different outcomes that are possible at a probation revocation hearing, and therefore it is critical that you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side as soon as you receive the notice of a hearing.
The best-case scenario is that the court finds that you did not violate the terms of your probation, dismisses the probation violation, and allows you to complete your probationary sentence. Although this happens, in many cases it is not possible to deny the violations. What then? The full range of possibilities includes:
- You can deny the violation, in which case you will be given a full hearing. The probation officer will testify or call other witnesses to establish the violations. Unless you can prove that there was not a violation, this option is not likely to end well.
- You can admit the violation, and present “circumstances in mitigation.” Basically, explain to the court why the violation occurred and ask for leniency. At this point, the judge has considerable discretion:
- Although it rarely happens, the court can terminate your probation with no jail time.
- The court can continue your probation with no jail time.
- The court can “partially revoke” your probation giving you a short sentence, but you will still be on probation when you get out.
- The court can “partially revoke” your probation and then terminate it, giving you some portion of the original sentence but you will not be on probation when you get out.
- The court can “fully revoke” your probation sending you to prison for the full amount of the suspended sentence.
Time spent out of prison but on probation does not count as “time served.” If your probation is fully revoked, you will not get credit for the time that you were on probation and you will have to serve the full sentence as if you were never placed on probation.
Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help with My Probation Violation?
Your probation revocation defense attorney will investigate why your probation officer wants to revoke you. In some cases, we may uncover the evidence and testimony that is needed to get the probation violation dismissed. Even in cases of a clear violation, your defense lawyer will know what types of mitigation your judge will need to hear to maximize your odds of staying out of prison.
Call us at (843) 488-5000 or use our online form so we can discuss your case with you and see how we can help you stay out of prison.