Probation Violations in Florida
Probation is often seen as a second chance - an opportunity for someone who has been convicted of a crime to avoid incarceration by following certain rules and conditions. However, what happens when those rules are broken? In Florida, violating the terms of probation can lead to serious consequences, including potential jail or prison time. Retaining an experienced probation violation attorney is your best option. Here's what else you need to know about probation violations in Florida:
What is Probation?
Probation is a court-ordered period of community supervision that allows someone convicted of a crime to serve their sentence outside of jail or prison. The court sets terms and conditions that the probationer must follow, such as:
- Maintaining employment
- Attending counseling or treatment programs
- Submitting to regular drug/alcohol testing
- Avoiding re-arrest
- Adhering to a curfew
- Paying fines, fees, restitution
- Completing community service
Probation allows individuals to rehabilitate and become productive members of society under strict monitoring. However, failure to comply can be considered a violation.
Types of Probation Violations
There are two main categories of probation violations:
Technical violations occur when the probationer fails to adhere to the rules and procedures of their probation, such as:
- Missing appointments with their probation officer
- Failing to maintain employment
- Missing curfew
- Failure to complete community service or treatment programs
- Failure to pay fines, fees, restitution
- Failure to report a change of address
Technical violations demonstrate that the probationer is not taking their probation seriously. While less severe than criminal violations, accumulating too many technical violations can still lead to penalties.
Criminal violations occur when the probationer commits a new crime or is arrested for a new offense. Common criminal violations include:
- Committing a misdemeanor or felony
- Possessing illegal drugs or weapons
- Driving under the influence
- Assault, battery, or other violent crimes
Criminal violations show a disregard for the law and unwillingness to change criminal behavior. These types of violations are seen as more serious and make penalties more likely.
Consequences of Probation Violations
Violating probation always carries consequences. Generally, the court has discretion in how to handle both technical and criminal violations. Typical penalties include:
For minor technical violations, the court may tighten the terms and conditions of probation. This may involve stricter reporting, counseling, community service hours, electronic monitoring, or other additions to make probation more rigorous.
If violations accumulate or involve criminal activity, the judge can revoke probation altogether. This means the probation is terminated and the original jail/prison sentence is imposed. Any credit for time already served on probation is nullified.
For moderate violations, the court may order a short jail stay to "shock" the probationer before returning them to probation. Jail time issued can range from a few days to a year.
Formal Violation Hearing
Once a violation is reported, the probationer is entitled to a violation hearing. This is a formal court proceeding where the probationer can argue against the allegations or provide mitigating circumstances before penalties are imposed.
If the probationer misses their violation hearing or flees supervision, a judge may issue a warrant for their arrest. Law enforcement will attempt to apprehend the probationer as a fugitive.
Sometimes probation will be extended for up to the maximum term allowed by law. This keeps the probationer under supervision longer as a form of discipline.
The consequences imposed will depend on factors like:
- The number and type of violations
- Prior probation history
- Severity of the original offense
- Judge's discretion
Serious or repeat violations make it increasingly likely the probationer will serve jail/prison time.
Violation Hearings in Florida
If accused of a probation violation in Florida, it's important to understand the hearings process:
- Initial Arrest: Police may arrest the probationer without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe a violation occurred. The probationer can be held in jail without bond.
- First Appearance Hearing: Must occur within 24 hours of arrest. A judge advises the probationer of the allegations and may set or deny bond.
- Violation Hearing: Formal court proceeding where violation allegations are argued. Probationer has a right to obtain counsel. The judge will determine if a violation occurred and impose penalties.
Though technical in nature, successfully navigating these hearings is vital to avoid maximum penalties and preserve your rights. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can advise you through the process.
Violation Defenses and Strategies
There are various legal defenses and strategies that a skilled attorney can raise to defend against probation violation accusations, such as:
- Lack of Notice - Argue the probationer was never made aware of the term or condition they allegedly violated.
- Ambiguity - If a condition like "avoid bars" is unclear, argue it's too ambiguous to be enforceable.
- Inability to Comply - Provide evidence showing external factors prevented compliance, like losing a job during layoffs.
- False Accusations - Challenge the credibility of any accusations against the probationer if based on lies or mistaken identity.
- Procedural Errors - Look for any technical problems in how the violation proceedings were conducted and argue a dismissal.
- Mitigating Factors - Present information about the probationer's life circumstances that should lessen the penalties imposed.
An experienced lawyer knows how to craft the most persuasive arguments to achieve the best outcome in a probation violation hearing. Don't hesitate to consult an attorney if facing violation allegations.
Take Probation Seriously
Probation can seem like an easy way out of jail time, but violating the terms can land you right back behind bars. To avoid violations:
- Maintain open communication with your probation officer
- Attend all required meetings, counseling, drug testing
- Comply fully with curfews, geographic restrictions
- Steer clear of people and places that could lead back to criminal behavior
- Always confirm with your probation officer before changing jobs, leaving the state, moving, etc.
- If any complications arise, speak to your lawyer immediately
Following these guidelines demonstrates your determination to become law-abiding. It will get you through probation successfully to become a productive member of society once again.
Consult an Attorney Today
Don't wait until it's too late - if you or a loved one are accused of violating probation in Florida, speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately. An experienced attorney can advise you of your rights, build the strongest defense, and achieve the most favorable outcome. Don't leave your fate to chance. Contact a dedicated lawyer now.
About David Edelstein
David Edelstein has been practicing criminal defense in Miami, Florida for over 25 years. He represents clients in both state and federal courts.
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