Courts often allow first time offenders, convicts who have already served a portion of their sentences, and those without prior criminal records an opportunity to avoid prison in exchange for their commitment to strictly follow terms and conditions of their probation. In Florida, defendants who are charged with offenses that are not punishable by death may resort to probation which is an alternative form of punishment that effectively avoids jail time or reduces the remaining period of imprisonment.
Probation requires strict adherence of a defined set of terms and conditions, failing which, the probationer may face a serious charge of probation violation under Section 948.06 of the Florida Statutes.
Types of Probation
Felony probation is an alternative sentence provided in a felony conviction and which typically lasts anywhere between 3 to 5 years. Misdemeanor probation is available to defendants charged with a misdemeanor and which alternative sentence can last for about 1 to 3 years.
Terms of Probation
The terms of a probation agreement will vary according to the nature of the offense and circumstances of the case. Ordinary terms that may be found in many probation agreements include:
- Appearing at scheduled meetings with the probation officer
- Submitting to drug or alcohol tests
- Restricted travels
- Avoiding certain locations or persons
- Completion of a rehabilitation or treatment program
- Not committing another violation of the law or another offense punishable by law
Under Florida statutes, a probationer who violates his probation may be arrested without a warrant by a parole or probation supervisor or by a law enforcement officer and returned to the court that granted the offender’s probation. In many cases, when a judge receives a sworn statement regarding the violation of probation, the judge may also issue a warrant of arrest or a notice for the probationer or offender to appear before it in a probation revocation hearing.
Probation Revocation Hearing
Probationers are entitled to a notice of the alleged violation of probation and to be heard in probation revocation proceedings. In a revocation hearing, the prosecution is required to show only by a preponderance of evidence that the probationer has violated the terms and conditions of his probation. This standard of proof is less than the usual ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ that is required in criminal cases.
Common Probation Violations
Some of the common ways that a probation agreement is violated include the following:
- Failing to file a monthly report
- Moving to another location without notifying the supervision officer
- Being charged with a new crime
- Failure to attend counseling or community service according to the terms of probation
- Excessive consumption of alcohol or other intoxicants
Effects of Probation Violation
When the court finds that the probationer has violated his probation, it may order:
- The enforcement of the maximum penalty of the original sentence
- The extension of the probation period
- Payment of fines
- The imposition of additional terms of probation
Importance of Criminal Defense Attorney
A charge of probation violation can have serious consequences, so it’s important to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney before attending your probation revocation hearing or making any admissions to a new charge or offense.
Your criminal defense attorney can examine all angles of your situation and determine whether there are defenses against the charge of probation violation that are appropriate to your case. Potential defenses may include proof that the alleged conduct does not constitute a material violation nor was it willfully committed. You may also have justified reasons for certain omissions and deserve to be heard on these defenses.
If the alleged violation of the terms of probation consists in an alleged new crime, your lawyer should also be able to defend you in the new case and have the new charges dismissed in order to avoid additional or heavier penalties.
Probation laws and the rules of procedure surrounding the enforcement and revocation of probation are highly complex matters. Your criminal defense attorney will have a good grasp of the rules, and can help you understand the legal steps that you can take to avoid more serious outcomes for an alleged probation violation.
In Stuart, Florida, the Law Offices of Keith Bregoff, PA have been defending clients charged with probation violations. Attorney Bregoff is a former lead felony state prosecutor in Florida and has over 23 years of litigation experience in a wide range of criminal cases. We encourage you to call us today at (772) 492-8967 to set up a free consultation with Attorney Bregoff.