We all make mistakes, but while most are harmless and easy to forgive, that’s not the case when it comes to criminal law. Criminal mistakes can lead to serious penalties and fines. In the state of Florida, after a sentence is served and you are released, you may have to go on probation for a period of time, and with probation comes certain conditions. Violating any of your probation conditions can have serious consequences.
Different Ways You Could Violate Your Probation
If you fail to follow any of the terms of your probationary punishment, you may be found in violation. Common examples of violation include:
- Missing an appointment with a probation officer with no valid excuse
- Being arrested for a new crime
- Not keeping up with legally required financial obligations
- Testing positive for a controlled substance
- Not completing a required drug treatment program
What Is Technical Probation Violation?
Technical probation violations include violations of certain conditions such as failing to pay fees, complete community service, or complete other services the court ordered, like anger management. Even the smallest violation can result in the revocation of probation.
In July 2016, a new state law came into effect that allows the Chief Judge of each Circuit, after consultation with the Public Defender and State Attorney, to create alternative sentencing for people who are accused of a technical probation violation. Under the new law, you have the chance to admit to the violation, waive your rights to legal counsel, and participate in the program. Otherwise, the legal processing on probation revocation will continue.
What Happens When You Violate Probation?
Once you violate your probation, you may be issued a warning, or you will receive a request to appear in court, which usually comes with some form of penalty. During the probation hearing, the sentencing judge will listen to your case and determine whether or not you violated the terms and conditions of your probation. Factors the judge may consider include the seriousness of the violation along with the type and nature thereof, aggregating circumstances, and a history of prior violations.
If you are found guilty of violation, a sentence will occur soon after the hearing. The court may extend your probation, impose further terms, order you to spend time in jail, or revoke the probation completely, which means you must spend the rest of your original sentence behind bars. In deciding your punishment, the judge will consider the nature and manner of your offense and whether you are a first-time or repeat offender.
The Legal Standards Differ in Cases of Violation of Probation
In your initial criminal case, to be convicted, you must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is usually a high burden for the state prosecutors to meet. But, this standard is not applicable in cases of violation of probation. Rather, violation of probation cases is governed by a less strict preponderance of the evidence standard. Under this standard, a prosecutor need only prove you likely violated your probation. So, if there is a 52 percent chance that you are guilty, then you can be found be found guilty of the violation. Since the standards are relatively low, you need to have a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on side to fight your case.
Trial Courts Have Discretion When It Comes to Punishment
In Florida, trial courts tend to have broad discretion for determining the appropriate punishment if you have violated your probation. This can be both a pro and a con. On the one hand, it gives you the opportunity to explain to the court why you violated your probation and explain why the revocation or probation would be the wrong decision. This means that a criminal defense attorney could help stop your probation being revoked. But, on the other hand, the broad discretion of the court allows the court to revoke probation for even minor violations of probation.
What Are Your Legal Rights at a Probation Hearing?
If you are faced with charges of violating your probation, you need to know your legal rights so as to avoid or minimize additional penalties. You have the right to:
- Receive a written notice of the claimed violations against you
- Have your case heard by a natural judge
- Have an attorney represent you
- Present witnesses and evidence to support the case
Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney
We know that you are only human and have the propensity for mistakes, but the criminal justice system is far less forgiving. That’s why having a skilled attorney like David Joffe on your side is critical to find the balance between following the rules of the law and showing mercy. Contact Joffe Law, P.A. today for a free consultation.