If you were convicted of a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee you may have been ordered to serve a period of time on probation in lieu of, or in addition to, a period of incarceration. Throughout your probationary period, however, the court will maintain jurisdiction over you and supervise your progress. A violation of any of the terms of your probation could result in serious consequences, including a return to jail. If you have been notified that a probation violation has been filed, or you have reason to believe one will be in the near future, you should contact an experienced Tennessee criminal lawyer immediately to ensure that your rights are protected during the probation violation proceedings.
Unfortunately, a significant percentage of the people who are placed on probation do not have a clear understanding of what probation is and how the terms of probation work. Probation can be used an alternative sentencing option that does not require a defendant to serve any additional time in jail or it can be part of a larger sentence that includes a period of incarceration. Either way, a defendant is typically sentenced to serve a period of time in jail but the court then suspends all, or a portion of, that time and orders the defendant to serve that suspended time on probation. For example, imagine that you are convicted of driving under the influence. The court might sentence you to serve a year in jail; however, the court might suspend the entire year and order the year spent on probation instead. Alternatively, the court could order only 305 days of the year sentence suspended, meaning you would have to spend 60 days in jail and the remaining 305 days on probation. The reason it is important to understand about your suspended sentence is that the court could revoke that suspension and order you to actually serve the jail time if you violate your probation.
Terms and Conditions of Probation
When a defendant is placed on probation the court also imposes a set of standard and specific/special conditions of probation. Standard conditions of probation are conditions that apply to everyone who is placed on probation and may include things such as:
- Maintaining employment or enrollment in school
- Paying court fines and costs
- Reporting to a probation officer
- Abstaining from drugs and alcohol
- Not committing another criminal offense
Special conditions of probation are conditions that apply specifically to you because of the offense of which you were convicted and/or your personal/criminal history. Examples of special conditions of probation might include things such as:
- Alcohol or drug treatment
- Paying restitution to a victim
- Mental health screening
- Anger management classes
Consequences of a Probation Violation
If your probation officer has reason to believe you have violated your probation a notice may be sent to the judge overseeing your probation. An official violation of probation may then be filed and an arrest warrant issued or a notice to appear sent to you with a hearing date. At the hearing, if the judge is convinced you did violate your probation the judge will typically do one of three things:
- Warning. If the violation is for something minor, and you have no previous violations, the judge may simply give you a warning and allow you to continue on probation with any change to the terms and conditions.
- Modification. The judge may decide that the offense is serious, but not serious enough to revoke your probation. One option is to modify the conditions of your probation to address the violation. For example, the judge may require you to perform community service work or may order an alcohol and drug evaluation if an addiction appears to be a problem.
- Revocation. If the offense is serious, such as the commission of a new crime, and/or you have a history of violations, the judge may revoke your probation altogether and order you to serve all, or a portion of, your suspended sentence in jail.
How Can a Criminal Lawyer Help?
Although a probation violation hearing is less formal than a trial, you are still facing serious consequences if the judge finds a basis for the alleged violation. The good news is that you are allowed to be represented by counsel at the violation hearing. Just as at a trial, your criminal lawyer can present a defense to the allegations that you violated your probation. Given the potential penalties for a violation it only makes sense to have an experienced criminal lawyer on your side.
If you have been accused of violating your probation, or you have reason to believe a violation will be filed against you, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal lawyers at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.