Probably most common violations arise from drug and alcohol testing where people either miss a test or get up late and are late for a test or test positive for drugs or alcohol, or drink too much water before taking a urine test and end up with a diluted sample and that is construed as a violation of probation as well. That’s probably the most common way that people end up with violations.
Other violations could occur from somebody getting a new case such as driving while their license is suspended, in which they’re driving without a valid license because they have to get to work but when they get caught, that’s a new misdemeanor which is considered new criminal activity, and therefore a violation of probation. Whether you consider that intentional or unintentional, I’m not sure, but those are simple things that happen that turn into violations of probation for people.
Do People Unintentionally Violate their Probation by Committing Stupid Mistakes?
Over the years we’ve seen a number of people where the probation department did not get a hold of them right away in order to set up all the terms and conditions on probation. They just did nothing and thought maybe everything had fallen through the cracks. The truth is at some point, you’re going to get violated for that and then they’re going to say you should’ve contacted them to find out what was going on.
That’s happened a lot over the years. Then more or less, sometimes people have too much for them to handle on their probation plate and they just can’t juggle it all while trying to keep their head above water and work and take care of their family and everything. They just make mistakes and don’t complete something or don’t do it on time or don’t do it right, or lose their proof of attendance at AA meetings for example, or a bunch of little things like that, that can lead to violations.
What Are the Potential Consequences of Violation of Probation?
The thing a lot of people don’t really appreciate about a violation of probation is that if you’re found guilty of the violation, then the judge basically resentences you again to whatever he or she wants to do.
Now, if it was something really little and they’re not too upset about it or you have a good explanation, then maybe they’ll just continue the probation and give you another chance. Normally they impose some kind of sanction. The worst case scenario is they give you the maximum jail sentence, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you plead guilty or have been found guilty of the violation of probation, the judge can do anything they want to you when it comes to punishment.
It’s a whole new sentencing, and it’s a little bit worse than the original sentencing as well because now the judge is looking at it as they already gave you a chance and you’ve already screwed it up. Now, they’re not only looking at the original offense but they’re looking at the fact that you’re failing at probation. There’s a lot of risk involved with violations of probation and I think sometimes people are too casual about how to handle at thinking that they’re just going to show up and get a lecture from the judge and the next thing they know, they’re in a jail.
What Happens if Someone in a Diversionary Program Commits a Violation of Probation?
There’s a diversion program that we can often negotiate for clients on a first offense, a drug possession case, even a felony drug possession case, whereby the conviction does not go on their record and if they successfully complete probation, the case is dismissed. Also they avoid having a driver’s license suspension imposed for the drug offense by being in this program.
Oftentimes, if they violate their probation, the first thing the judge does as a sanction is revoke that referral or diversion program and put the conviction on their record. They end up not only with a conviction but they also get their driver’s license taken away and maybe do jail time as well. Those people who are in those programs where the case is going to be dismissed have the most risk to violations of probation, because not only do they have to risk the full punishment but they have to deal with the consequences of having the conviction on their record.
What is the Role of Prosecution in a Probation Violation Hearing?
Once somebody gets a violation of probation, they show up for a court date in that matter and then typically the defendant will inform the court whether they’re going to plead guilty on the violation of probation or whether they’re going to have a hearing to contest it.
If they have a hearing to contest it, then the prosecutor will be involved in trying to prove that the violation did occur. If the person pleads guilty, then typically the prosecutors don’t say too much to the court but the probation department makes a recommendation to the court about what the punishment should be. From there, the defense gets a chance to respond to that recommendation and try to argue against it. The prosecutor’s role is often very minimal in a violation of probation unless it’s being contested.
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