Probation is a sentencing alternative that may be used in liwue of, or in addition to, a term of imprisonment for a defendant who has been convicted of a criminal offense. If you were ordered to serve a period of time on probation, and you have been notified that a violation of that probation has been filed, or likely will be filed, you should be concerned. If the judge finds that you did, indeed, violate the terms of your probation you could be facing serious consequences, including a return to jail. The good news is that you have the right to have a criminal defense lawyer represent you at the violation hearing and you would be wise to exercise that right.
One of the many reason why people take the risk of violating their probation is the simple fact they don’t truly understand how a probation sentence works. Instead of really reading, or listening, to the sentence handed down by the court, they only register that no jail time is involved and that they are being sentenced to probation. The way is usually works, however, is that a defendant is actually sentence to a period of time in jail or prison but that sentence is suspended and the defendant is allowed to serve the time on probation instead. That original sentence, however, continues to hang over the defendant’s head for the entire duration of probation.
Standard and Special Conditions of Probation
When you are sentenced to serve a period of time on probation you will generally be required to abide by both standard and special conditions of probation. Standard conditions of probation are conditions that everyone on probation must follow, such as:
- Reporting to a probation officer as directed
- Maintaining employment or enrollment in school
- Not getting arrested for a new crime
Special conditions of probation are conditions that apply only to you and are usually related to the offense of which you were convicted, such as:
- Substance abuse evaluation and/or treatment
- Anger management classes
- Payment of restitution
Types of Probation Violations
Probation violations can be divided into two broad categories. The first category involves violating one of the standard or special conditions of your probation. The second category involves being arrested and charged with a new offense. People often do not realize that you can be violated simply for being charged with a new offense, even if you have yet to be convicted of that offense.
What Will Happen If You Are Violated?
Typically, it is a probation officer who files a notice of violation with the court based on information he/she has about the defendant. The court then issues an arrest warrant or an order to appear for the defendant and sets the matter for a hearing. If the judge finds that a violation did occur at the hearing, the judge will do one of three things:
- Nothing — sometimes, if the violation was minor and the defendant has no history of violations a judge will simply admonish the defendant and warn him/her not to let another violation occur. In that case, the defendant returns to probation with no changes.
- Modify — the judge might modify the conditions of your probation if the judge feels additional conditions are warranted or would be helpful. For example, if you failed a drug test the judge might add a condition that you attend drug treatment classes.
- Revoke — if the violation is serious and/or you have a history of violations, the judge may revoke your probation and order you to serve some, or all, of your suspended sentence in jail or prison.
Your Right to a Lawyer
Although a probation violation hearing is more formal than a trial, you are entitled to have criminal defense lawyer present to defend you. Given the fact that you are facing a return to jail if you are found to have violated your probation it is wise to exercise this right and consult with an attorney as soon as you have reason to believe a violation will be filed.
If you have additional questions regarding probation violations in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense lawyers at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.