What Happens if I Violate Probation? Can a Lawyer Help?

Probation is granted to criminal defendants with the understanding that following the rules and regulations serve as an alternative to incarceration. When someone violates the terms of their probation, they are no longer entitled to a trial-by-jury. Whether or not you are sent to jail is left to the discretion of a judge. However, you are still entitled to a hearing where you can explain the situation. Judges do allow people to continue their probation so long as they can prove they are taking it seriously and the probation violation wasn’t too egregious.

You will want an attorney representing you at your hearing. Having a lawyer present demonstrates that you are taking the situation seriously. Below, we will go over what will happen if you violate your probation and how hiring our Fresno criminal defense attorney can help.

After Violating Probation

The rules of probation are very strict, and they differ from person to person. Typically, these rules demand you meet with a probation officer once a week, pay fines imposed by the court, and forbid you from traveling out of the state. If you violate any of these regulations, the probation officer will either issue you a warning or order you to appear in court for a hearing. It is left up to the probation officer whether or not a warning or hearing is necessary.

It is imperative that you appear to the probation hearing as this is your last chance to explain what happened. If you do not show up, the court will likely issue an arrest warrant and you will almost certainly go to jail or prison.

Pleading Your Case

Unlike a trial, a probation violation hearing does not require the defendant to be guilty beyond “reasonable doubt”. There is no jury, only a judge will decide your case. It is up to the prosecution that it is more than likely that you violated your probation based on a “preponderance of evidence”.

However, the judge will not always sentence a defendant to incarceration even if you are guilty of violating your probation. There are circumstances where a defendant was put in a difficult position and had little choice but to violate probation. For example, if you missed a meeting with your probation officer because your boss needed you to work, the judge may be sympathetic to this.

Demonstrating Your Commitment

You have the right to appear before an unbiased judge during your hearing. This means you have an opportunity to prove to the judge that you take your probation seriously and understand what’s at stake. It is important that you talk strategy with your attorney. Local lawyers are usually familiar with nearby judges and can coach you on things that the judge does and does not like.

Make sure you follow appropriate court etiquette:

  • Show up to the hearing on time
  • Have an attorney with you, this shows that you realize a hearing is a big deal
  • Dress nicely, as if you were going to church or a banquet
  • Express your willingness to attend counseling or AA meetings if the judge recommends it

Possible Penalties

A judge will not always sentence a defendant to incarceration if they are found guilty. There are other sentences they can impose instead, which are usually preferable to jail or prison.

Penalties for violating probation may include:

  • Increasing the duration of the probation
  • Community service
  • Attending AA, rehabilitation, or counseling
  • Fines

Even if you did violate the terms of your probation, there is no guarantee that the judge will impose more penalties. If this is the first offense and the circumstances are understandable, they may only issue a warning.

Regardless of the circumstances of your probation violation, you will want an attorney by your side to help you through the hearing. A lot of the decisions in hearings are left to the discretion of the judge, and an attorney can help you prepare for the event.

If you need an attorney representing you during a probation violation hearing in Southern California, call (559) 484-2112 to reach our Fresno criminal defense lawyer.

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