Over four million individuals across the U.S. are on probation each year, comprising approximately 1.3% of the entire U.S. population. Probation violations occur all too often, and may be a central reason behind the burgeoning prison population across the nation. Nearly one half of the American prison population is there due to failed probation or community supervisions. Each year, over 300,000 probationers are sent to prison as a result of violating the terms of their probation. In many states, it is not uncommon for over half of all probationers to violate the terms of their probation.
Why Are Probation Violations So Common?
As the statistics presented above illustrate, probation violations are alarmingly common nationwide and in Florida. The most prevalent reason for the massive number of violations is that probation comes with stringent and onerous terms. Probationers are often require to complete extensive community service hours, pay sometimes hefty fines, attend meetings, and refrain from consuming alcohol, just to name a few conditions.
What Activities Can Constitute a Violation of Probation?
Probation violations can be in the form of failing to comply with the terms of your probation or committing an action that violates your probation. Some of the most common acts that trigger probation violations include:
- Failing to report: If you are on active probation, you will likely be required to report to your probation officer on a regular basis. Failing to report can result in a probation violation.
- Failure to pay fines and fees: Probation can be very expensive. Probationers must pay monthly probation fees along with court costs and possibly restitution. Failing to timely pay these fines and fees can result in a probation violation. For individuals struggling to find or maintain employment after an arrest, keeping up with fines and fees can be an uphill battle. If you believe you may not be able to timely pay your fines and fees, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable probation violation attorney who may be able to obtain you more time to pay, thus preventing any violation of your probation.
- Use of drugs or alcohol: Depending upon the terms of your specific probation, you may be ordered to refrain from the use of drugs or alcohol. Generally, your probation officer or the court will require you take a drug test at random. Failure of this drug test will result in a probation violation.
- Failure to complete community service requirements: While not always a condition of probation, if the court orders you to complete a certain number of community service hours, you must do so within the allotted time period or face possible violation of your probation.
- Associating with individuals you are required not to: Some terms of probation will prevent you from associating with felons, while probation stemming from domestic violence incidences will generally include a stay away order, barring you from coming close to the victim. Violating these probation terms can result in a violation of your probation.
- Conviction of a new crime: A universal cause of probation violations, if you are convicted of a new crime, regardless of what the crime is, your probation will most likely be terminated.
- Commission of a new offense: If you are arrested for committing a new offense, you can be found in violation of your probation even if you are never convicted for the offense, the charge is never pursued, or you are acquitted.
When your probation officer becomes aware of an alleged violation, he or she will file a violation of probation, or VOP, affidavit. This affidavit becomes the charging document in a Florida VOP proceeding. You will then usually receive a notice to appear to answer to the VOP allegations. In more serious allegation, you may be issued a bondable arrest warrant. In the most severe of VOP allegations, you will be issued a no-bond arrest warrant calling for your immediate arrest and detainment without bond.
The VOP Affidavit
The VOP affidavit is similar to the bill of information in an adult court proceeding. It will set out the allegations of misconduct, which fall under three categories:
- Technical violations: This is a violation of the rules of probation, other than committing a separate criminal offense. It can include failure to perform community service, missing a probation appointment, or leaving drug counseling.
- New law violations: This type of violation involves commission of a new criminal offense. Being arrested for a DUI or shoplifting are two examples of new law violations. A new law violation is more serious than a technical violation.
- Failure to pay or financial obligation violations: While this is technically a technical violation, failure to pay violations are the least serious. Generally, these violations can be satisfactorily resolved without formally violating your probation.
The Violation of Probation Hearing
The violation of probation hearing is different from a criminal hearing. You are not entitled to a bond nor do you have the right to a jury trial. The standard of evidence is only a preponderance of the evidence, instead of beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge therefore has much power to keep you in prison if he or she believes it is more likely than not that you violated your probation.
Penalties for Violating Your Probation in Florida
If you are found to have violated your probation, a Florida court can sentence you to any lawful sentence. The sentence can exceed even what was previously imposed. Accordingly, an 18 month probation sentence for a drug charge can turn into a five year prison sentence. The judge has the power to give the minimum or maximum or anywhere in between upon a VOP conviction. Being convicted of a violation of probation will require the judge adjudicate you guilty of the underlying offense, which can have far reaching consequences for your job and livelihood.
Probation violations are a serious matter that requires serious legal representation. To schedule a free consultation with one of our dedicated and experienced Gainesville Probation Attorneys, call our law office today.