New law violations, or new arrests, can violate your probation. But in the Miami and Broward courts, technical violations are the most common.
A technical violation occurs when the probationer violates a condition of their probation, such as failing to complete community service hours, failing to make restitution payments, failing to pay fees, failing to report (very common), or failing a drug screen (very common as well).
A violation occurs when the probation officer files a probation violation affidavit with the court. This affidavit is the probation officer's way of telling the court what he or she claims you have done to violate your probation. The judge then issues a probation violation warrant, and you are arrested.
More than likely, you will be held in jail without bond pending your violation. Yes, I know it sounds unfair, but you can wind up in jail for failing to do something as simple as make a phone call to check in with your probation violation.
As a South Florida criminal defense attorney who practices in the Miami and Broward courts, I find probation violations to be some of the most common offenses that come my way. That's because probation, while better than prison, is tough to complete. If you forget to perform any of the required tasks, you will find yourself violated.
Probation violations must be proven to the court, however, the standard is much lower than it is during an ordinary jury trial. Probation violation hearings, or PVHs, are conducted without a jury, in front of a judge. The state must prove by a greater weight of the evidence (think 51%) that you are guilty of violating your probation. Needless to say, this is an easy feat for the State of Florida.
Now, if you are on probation for a second-degree felony, such as burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, you face the maximum time you would have faced on the underlying charge should you violate probation. That means that your probation violation carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison. That is why retaining a qualified probation violation attorney is so important.
Technical violations are better than new law violations insofar as you have not committed a new crime. Therefore, technical violations are easier to "fix" than new law violations.
However, that does not mean that technical violations are taken lightly. If you test positive for drugs, you will be violated. If you fail to report to your probation officer when ordered, you will be violated. If you fail to complete any of the conditions of your probation, you will be violated. The list goes on.
My goal when defending clients charged with probation violations is to get the violation dismissed and get the client back on probation. This can also entail getting the judge to hold the violation in abeyance, which means that the judge will literally suspend the violation and give you some time to do whatever it is you failed to do. That may mean more time to pay your fees or restitution, or more time to complete your community hours or classes. This is a second chance, and a huge opportunity to get out of trouble.
If you have failed to report to probation, you may be able to be reinstated provided you agree to report regularly. Again, a good criminal lawyer who is familiar with probation violations may be able to negotiate a reinstatement without you having to spend much time in jail.
If you have tested positive for drugs, your probation violation attorney may be able to get the judge to hold the violation in abeyance and release your from jail, provided you agree to come to court on a regular basis and submit to drug tests. Many good Miami-Dade judges believe that drug addiction is a disease, not just a criminal act, and understand that relapse is a part of recovery.
Financial violations depend entirely on your ability to pay. Remember what you learned in middle school social studies - the founders of this country specifically did not want debtors prisons, as they had back in Old England. You CANNOT go to jail simply because you are poor. However, a willful failure to pay the costs of your probation or your restitution payments is a violation, and one that CAN land you in jail.
If you or a loved one are facing a probation violation, contact my office today.