A probation violation is a serious offense that gives prosecutors an opportunity to secure harsh sentences against you. That’s because the burden of proof in a probation violation hearing is substantially lower than it is at trial.
At trial, a prosecutor must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a probation violation hearing, a prosecutor need only demonstrate that you have willfully and substantially violated your probation. This hearing is held in front of a judge. You are not entitled to a jury. If the violation is technical, such as failure to complete a class or failure to report, the proof is easy. The prosecutor merely calls the probation officer as a witness and asks them if you were advised of your probation conditions and whether those conditions were met.
When the probation officer says “no,” the judge has enough evidence upon which to find you in violation.
Most probation violations will result in your being held in custody without a bond. For misdemeanor probation violations, you may be eligible for a bond.
The best way to deal with probation violations is to resolve them. A good resolution will place you back on your probation without having to do any jail or prison time.
If you have prior probation violations, each subsequent violation will bring about a stiffer penalty.
When you are charged with a violation of your probation, you face the statutory maximum for your underlying charge, minus all the time you have already served either in custody or while on probation.
For instance, if you are on probation for a count of grand theft, you can face up to 5 years in state prison for a violation, minus the time you have already served on probation. So if you violate during your second year of a three year probationary term, you face a maximum of 3 years in prison (5 years total minus the 2 years you have already served).
Every felony probation violation carries the possibility of prison time.
Eric Matheny is a Miami probation violation lawyer and a Broward probation violation lawyer.