A criminal conviction may lead to probation instead of jail time. Probation is a period of time when you are given a chance to show you can obey the law and not get into any more trouble. You may receive probation instead of jail time for lesser crimes such as shoplifting or drunk driving. The specific terms of probation vary depending on the offense and decisions made by the prosecutor and judge.
The goal of probation is to rehabilitate a person who has been convicted of a crime. Ideally, probation should help that person become a productive member of society while lessening the probability that he or she will commit another offense.
Probation, an alternative to imprisonment, is granted when the circumstances and severity of the crime indicate that imprisoning the person is not a suitable punishment. Because the person does not pose any threat to society, he or she is allowed to live in the general population. However, the probationer must follow certain conditions, which may include:
- Living in a specified location
- Participating in rehabilitation programs
- Submitting to chemical dependency tests
- Performing community service
- Maintaining employment
- Not having any contact with certain individuals such as the victims of the crime or anyone who collaborated on the crime.
A person on probation is supervised by a probation officer who assists them in following the conditions and behaving lawfully. If the probation officer determines that any of the conditions have been violated or that the probationer has been involved in the commission of another crime, a hearing to revoke the probation is held. If the probationer is found guilty, the court may decide to:
- Continue probation
- Modify the conditions of probation
- Lengthen the period of probation
- Revoke probation
- Incarcerate up to the Maximum time allowed
If probation is revoked, the probationer is sentenced again for the crime for which he or she was originally charged. There is a much higher likelihood of jail for violation of probation because in the eyes of the court a Defendant was given a chance to prove themselves and have now failed. Some judges even take it as a personal slap in the face that a Defendant did not follow their orders of probation. For many Defendants probation is revoked and they are sentenced to jail quickly and without realizing the seriousness of their situation. It is critically important that a Defendant be able to effectively communicate their side of the story anytime they are faced with a charge of violation of probation.
Probation is a chance to show you can obey the law, probation violations are taken very seriously. A violation can result in the probation period being extended, in the terms of probation being altered or even in jail time. Just because you are accused of a probation violation does not necessarily mean that you will be found to have violated your obligations, nor does it always mean you’ll face consequences or penalties.
Types of Probation Violations in Michigan
Many different kinds of behavior may be considered a violation of probation, depending on exactly what conditions were attached to the probationary period. Some of the common reasons for a probation violation include:
- Leaving the state without permission.
- Failure to contact your probation officer as required.
- Failure to attend required drug or alcohol counseling.
- Leaving a court-ordered rehab program.
- Testing positive for drug or alcohol use in violation of the terms of your probation.
- Refusal to complete court-ordered counseling or therapy.
- Failing to maintain employment or continue with your schooling.
- Refusal or failure to comply with court-ordered activities or community service.
- Relocating without authorization or without alerting your probation officer.
- Missing a court date.
- Being accused of another crime.
Michigan courts take probation violations very seriously, as they see probation as a privilege.
Your Rights After a Probation Violation in Michigan
In a 1967 case called Morrissey v. Brewer, the Supreme Court said that someone on parole couldn’t be sent to jail or face sanctions just because a parole officer said he or she had broken parole. The parolee was entitled to due process. Just a few years later in a 1973 case called Gangon v. Scarpelli, the court made clear that those accused of a probation violation also have the right to due process.
Due process is an important constitutional right that means you cannot be penalized or lose freedoms without fair legal proceedings, including notice of the charges against you and the right to defend yourself. Those accusing you of violating your probation have a legal burden to show that you actually did violate the terms and conditions the court imposed on you as conditions of your probation.
While different states have interpreted due process for probation violations in different ways, the bottom line is that you have to be formally accused in a hearing of having violated your probation, and the violation must be proved before your probation can be revoked or penalties imposed.
However, unlike in a criminal case, the violation doesn’t have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution has the obligation to show only by a preponderance of the evidence that you committed the probation violation. In other words, they need to show that more likely than not you did something wrong. If the prosecutor meets this burden at your probation violation hearing, then you may be found to have violated your probation and will face consequences.
In the case of a probation violation, the hearing will typically be held before the judge who initially ordered probation. You will get to defend yourself or provide justification for your actions, but if the judge believes you committed an unjustified violation, he or she will decide the consequences.
Consequences of a Probation Violation
The consequences of a probation violation are not the same in every case. For severe violations, you may have your probation revoked and be sent to jail. In other cases, the judge may just make your probationary period longer or impose additional requirements.
The strength of your arguments at the hearing and the justification for your actions will help to determine how your probation violation affects your future. It is helpful to have an experienced Michigan probation violations lawyer representing your interests at this hearing.