Probation is one of the sentencing options that are available to criminal courts. Putting a person convicted of a crime on probation essentially allows him or her to remain in the community instead of going to jail. However, the terms of probation require the convicted individual to comply with certain rules and conditions including community service, meeting with his or her probation officer, refraining from using drugs or alcohol, avoiding certain locations and people, and appearing in court during the required times.
If you have been put on probation, it means that a judge determined that you could remain in your community as long as you follow the terms of your probation for the duration of the probationary period. Probation may be informal where the individual is not assigned to a probation officer, or formal, which requires that you report to a county probation officer on a regular basis.
The court sets the terms and conditions of the probation that you must comply with during your conditional release from custody. If you are successful in completing your probation, you may be able to have your conviction dismissed if you plead guilty or no contest. You may also be able to have your conviction set aside if a jury found you guilty during a trial.
If You Violate Your Probation
If you violate any of the probation terms, there may be a number of potential consequences. Your probation could be revoked or modified at the discretion of the judge. If the court revokes your probation, you will likely be sentenced to jail or prison. Here are some of the consequences you could face if you have been accused of violating your probation.
Arrest: If you failed to comply with the terms and conditions of your probation, you can expect the court to issue a warrant for your arrest. Your probation officer may also be able to arrest you when you report to him or her. Often, you may be able to post bail and be released from custody pending a probation violation hearing.
Probation Violation Hearing: This hearing allows your criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor’s office to present testimony and evidence to the court to demonstrate whether you violated the terms of your probation. The court will then decide whether you violated your probation. The prosecution has the burden of proof, which means they must present evidence to show that you violated the terms of your probation.
The standard of proof is much lower in a probation violation hearing than other types of criminal trials. The prosecution must only prove the violation by a “preponderance of the evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In other words, all they have to show is that you “more likely than not” violated at least one term or condition of your probation. It is also important to remember that you will not get a jury trial at a probation violation hearing. The judge will make the final decision.
However, defendants in a California probation violation hearing have many of the same rights as those who are defendants in criminal jury trials. You have the right to be represented by a criminal defense attorney and the right to call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You also have the right to present any extenuating circumstances that may have caused or contributed to your probation violation and the right to testify on your own behalf.
Changes to Probation: If a judge finds that you violated the terms of your probation, your probation can be modified, revoked or terminated. If it was your first probation violation, the judge may simply reinstate your probation without modifying any terms or conditions. However, the judge may require that you serve time in jail as one of the conditions of having your probation reinstated. It is fairly common for a judge to require that that you serve jail time for your probation to be reinstated.
The judge may also increase your probation time if you commit a violation. For example, if your original probationary term was three years, that could be extended for up to five years. Apart from the duration of the probation, the judge may also change the conditions of the probation. For example, if you violated your probation by being involved in a domestic violence incident, the judge may require anger management classes as one of the terms of your probation.
The judge also has the option of revoking and terminating your probation. This means that you will be have to serve out the rest of your sentence in custody. If you violated your probation and committed a new crime in the process, you face prosecution for any new criminal charges. So, in addition to your probation being revoked and terminated, you may be looking at new criminal charges, which you now must defend.
When determining the penalties for your probation violation, the judge will consider the seriousness of your probation violation; your prior criminal record; whether you have violated your probation in the past; and how much of your probation you’ve served.
In some cases, if you have successfully completed your probation, you may also be able to get your criminal conviction from your record. This process is known as an “expungement.” This is possible even if you have been found to have violated your probation at a probation violation hearing in California. However, it could be challenging to accomplish and typically, the decision on whether to grant your petition for expungement will depend on the judge’s discretion.
Contacting an Experienced Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of violating the terms or conditions of your probation, an experienced California criminal defense attorney can help represent you during your probation violation hearing and make the case that your violation does not warrant harsh punishment.
Your defense lawyer may be able to demonstrate to the judge that there were circumstances that made it impossible for you to avoid violating the terms of your probation. A number of people end up violating their probation unintentionally. If you have been accused of a probation violation, it is crucial that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has helped individuals in similar situations.