For most people, probation is an attractive alternative to jail or prison, which is why so many plea deals hinge on the defendant accepting probation in lieu of incarceration. But what happens when you violate the rules of probation? Do you have to serve out the rest of your sentence behind bars? The answer usually depends on a number of factors, including the nature of the violation, the remaining time left on the probationary term, and the original charge.
A dedicated VOP lawyer near you can provide you with invaluable advice about the rules of probation in Florida and help keep you out of jail or prison.
Terms of Probation in Florida
Florida State Statute 948.03 outlines probationary terms in the state. The particular terms of your probation may vary, but this is a list of the standard rules of probation as outlined in the statute. The probationer:
- must report to the probation officer as outlined by the court.
- must be employed or seek active employment.
- must allow the probation officers to visit their home, work, or any other locations listed in the court's guidelines.
- cannot incur any new criminal offenses.
- is required to make restitution to anyone who is determined by the courts to be a victim of the crime that the probationer is accused of.
- has to support their legal dependents.
- cannot associate with criminals or anyone involved in criminal activity.
- must submit to random alcohol and/or drug testing.
- cannot own or possess a gun or other weapon without authorization.
- must pay for costs associated with probation.
- must not possess non-prescription or illicit drugs.
- cannot leave a geographic area without permission.
It's not difficult for some people to work within the rules of probation, but for others, it can be challenging. And some situations may be beyond the probationer's control. For instance, what happens if the probationer loses their job and can't readily find work? Will they be violated if they don't find a job within a specified period of time? Or what will occur if they find out that their roommate is a convicted felon or engaged in criminal activity unbeknownst to the probationer?
Consequences for Violating Probation
If you violate probation, you may be referred by your probation officer for a violation of probation (VOP) hearing. This is not a new trial, and the court does not need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you've violated your probationary terms. The judge can determine whether or not you should have to serve out the remainder of your sentence, have additional restrictions placed on you, or not take any action. If your violation involves a new crime, the court may decide to place you into custody as your new charges work their way through the criminal justice system. If a hearing is held, the Judge would determine if you willfully and substantially violated your probation and if it was proven by a greater weight of the evidence. This is a lower standard than at a normal criminal trial. It is lower than beyond a reasonable doubt.
Technical Violations of Probation
Substantive violations of probation occur when the probationer is caught committing a new crime while on probation. Technical violations are violations of the probationary terms. For instance, if you travel out of state without permission, it's not a crime, but it is a violation of probation. The term “technical” does not necessarily mean “minor,” and you may have your probation violated for a technical violation.
When Are Probation Violations Least Likely to Lead to Jail Time?
Probation is a compact between the courts and the probationer that's partially based on trust. While it's true that your probation officer will follow your progress, you are usually left on your own. Most judges will view any sort of new criminal activity as a significant violation of trust. On the other hand, a judge may not deem a failed alcohol or cannabis test a major violation, particularly if your crime didn't involve drinking or narcotics. If you have repeat violations, it may not matter to a judge whether or not the offenses were minor. The courts have a great deal of discretion when determining penalties, which is why you should hire a Florida criminal defense lawyer to present your case to the court.
Other Questions About Probation in Florida
If you are on probation or are facing a violation of probation hearing, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. In Florida, Weinstein Legal can represent you at your VOP hearing.
Is There a Difference Between Federal and State Probation?
Yes, if you are placed on federal probation, you will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Southern District of Florida. The Florida Department of Corrections Probation Office supervises probationers for state felonies.
Does It Matter if You're on Misdemeanor or Felony Probation?
It can. The Florida Department of Corrections monitors felony probationers, and other agencies may supervise misdemeanor probationers, depending on the county of arrest. For instance, Broward Sheriff's Office monitors misdemeanor probationers.
What if I'm Arrested on a New Crime While on Probation?
You're entitled to a trial for that crime, and you are considered innocent until proven guilty. Because a violation of probation does not require the same level of proof, however, your new charge may violate your probation. This could lead to incarceration for your original crime.
What if My Probation Officer is Abusive or Unfair?
Probation officers have a tremendous amount of power over the lives of their charges. Unfortunately, a small percentage of them abuse that power. If you have an unfair or abusive probation officer, contact Weinstein Legal or a probation violation attorney near you.
Criminal Defense Lawyer in Palm Beach and Broward
Violating probation can lead to your immediate arrest and incarceration. Don't take chances with your freedom. If you are facing a VOP hearing, contact Weinstein Legal to discuss your violation. Attorney Matt Shafran has an outstanding record of success when it comes to defending clients in criminal prosecutions and against violations of probation. Call today.