When charges with a criminal offense, the ideal outcome is to be found not guilty or have the charges dismissed. Sometimes, however, there is no way to avoid a conviction. When a conviction is inevitable, one of the preferred sentencing outcomes is a probation only sentence that avoids spending any additional time in jail. If you were sentenced to spend a period of time on probation as a result of a conviction in the State of Tennessee, it is imperative that you abide by the terms and conditions of your probation. Failing to do so will result in a notice of violation which, in turn, will result in a probation violation hearing being set by the court. If you are scheduled for a probation violation hearing, you are likely unsure of what to expect as well as concerned about the outcome. The outcome depends on a variety of factors; however, Smyrna probation violation attorneys explain what happens at a typical violation hearing so you know what is likely to occur at your hearing.
What Is Probation?
Probation is a sentencing alternative that allows a defendant to serve some, or all, of his/her sentence in the community instead of in jail or prison. Probation may be ordered in addition to, or in lieu of, a period of incarceration. Not all offenses, and not all defendants, are eligible for probation. Probation should not be confused with parole. Parole is a period of supervision that follows an inmate’s release from prison. As such, parolees are supervised by the Parole Board or the Board of Prisons at the state or federal level. Probation, on the other hand, is ordered as part of a sentence by the sentencing judge. As such, the sentencing court retains jurisdiction over probationers.
Understanding Your Original Sentence
One of the most common, and costly, mistakes defendants make is failing to understand the sentence handed down by the judge. All they hear is “probation” and all they focus on is that they are not being ordered to return to jail. Specifically, people often fail to realize that they actually were ordered to serve a period of time in jail but that the sentence was suspended. For example, a typical probation sentence might actually include a year in jail, with all time in jail suspended and a year of probation. In that case, there is a year of suspended time, or “back-up” time hanging over the defendant’s head for the length of the probation. If probation is violated, the judge can revoke probation and order the defendant to serve the entire suspended sentence.
Smyrna Probation Violation Attorneys Explain a Violation Hearing
A probation violation hearing is similar to a criminal trial; however, it is less formal. The State of Tennessee will be represented by the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. The defendant has the right to be represented by an attorney as well. Given what is at stake, it is always wise to exercise that right. The prosecutor will usually call witnesses, starting with the probation officer, in an effort to prove that the probationer actually did violate the terms and/or conditions of probation. The defense attorney can cross-examine those witnesses as well. Also like a trial, a defendant cannot be forced to testify or otherwise incriminate himself; however, the defendant can waive that right. Ultimately, however, if the judge does find that you violated your probation, one of three things can occur:
- Return unchanged – if the violation is relatively minor, and the defendant has little or no history of violations and/or other criminal convictions, the judge may just admonish the defendant not to violate again.
- Return with changes – for more serious violations, or if there is a history of violations and/or convictions, the judge might allow the defendant to remain on probation; however, with modifications to the original probation order. For example, the judge might add a condition that the probationer attend chemical abuse classes.
- Revocation – if the violation is serious enough, or the probationer has already violated several times, the judge may simply revoke the probation and order the probationer to serve all, or a portion of, the suspended sentence.
If you have been notified that a probation violation has been filed in your case, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Smyrna probation violation attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible . Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.