One common way that a criminal case is resolved is by admitting to the offense and getting placed on probation. A person on probation has the opportunity to avoid jail time, by staying out of trouble and abiding by a series of conditions that are imposed by a judge. Sometimes those conditions of probation are just the standard ones that every probationer must follow. These include keeping in contact with your probation officer, paying any required fines and fees, and not picking up any new offenses. Other times there are specific conditions that are relevant to the case or the defendant, such as completing a certain program, or following a “stay away” order. If a probationer violates one of these conditions, he will most likely be brought before a judge for a violation of probation.
If your probation officer tells you to come to their office, or if you hear that you have a warrant, it is best to address the issue head on. An attorney can help you get back in the good graces of your probation officer and minimize any potential penalty you may face.
A probation violation usually has two hearings. The first of the two is called the probation detention hearing, or initial surrender. At the initial surrender, the probationer presents themselves to the court, or are otherwise brought into court if they are in custody. Sometimes the probation officer will want to hold the probationer in jail for a period of time. The judge will ask whether the probation officer is seeking to detain the probationer. Once the issue of detention has been discussed, the probation officer will present a notice of violation to the court and the defendant. If the judge finds probable cause to believe that a probation violation has occurred, they will schedule a second event called a probation violation hearing, or final surrender, and decide whether to detain the probationer pending the hearing.
At the probation violation hearing, the probation officer will be present evidence to try to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the probationer violated a condition of his probation. The probation officer only needs to prove that it is more likely than not that the probationer violated. The rules of evidence are relaxed for this hearing, and most evidence will be admissible, including hearsay. The probationer has the opportunity to tell his side of the story, present evidence, and cross-examine witnesses. If no violation is found, the probationer will continue on probation until his end date. If the judge does find a violation, he can impose any sentence he sees fit, as long as it is a legal one. Sometimes it makes sense to come up with an agreement with the probation officer and waive the Probation Violation Hearing.
Having an attorney represent you at this stage is critical. A positive result can help to, limit your court involvement, preserve your criminal record, and keep you out of jail.