Violations of probations can be as serious as any new charge. If the court places you on any form of probation and you violate the terms of your probation, you could be brought back to court and could face up to the maximum sentence for the crime for which you are on probation. For example, if you are on misdemeanor probation for a DUI and you are accused of violating any term of your probation, you can face up to six months in county jail (the maximum punishment for a DUI). In another example, if you are on felony probation for possessing stolen property and violate any term of your probation, you would face up to three years in state prison, even if you do not have a “joint suspended” or execution of sentence suspended.
Types of probation
Informal probation: Also known as court probation or a conditional sentence, informal probation is most common in misdemeanor cases. Almost everyone convicted of a first time DUI will be placed on informal probation. On informal probation, you do not have a probation officer supervising you. Generally, you do not need to do anything other than obey all laws and court orders, pay the fines and fees, and follow any other directives of the court, such as attending a DUI school. Many people on informal probation do not even realize they are still subject to the jurisdiction of the court. If you are arrested and charged with a new offense while you are on informal probation, you will be charged with both the new offense as well as violating probation.
Formal probation: Almost all persons convicted of felonies who are granted probation are placed on formal supervised probation. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, you will be placed on formal probation. In other misdemeanor cases that the court considers serious, such as child abuse or neglect and some misdemeanor sex crimes, the court may place you on formal probation. While on formal probation you will be assigned a supervising probation officer who you should have regular contact with. If you do not meet with your probation officer or keep him or her updated on your residence, you could be in violation of probation.
What could be the terms of my probation?
Typical terms of probation include obey all laws and be of good conduct. If you are on probation for a driving related offense, you will be ordered not to drive unless properly licensed and insured. If drugs or alcohol were a factor in your conviction, you could be ordered to abstain from the use of alcohol, stay out of places where alcohol is the primary item of sale (no bars or liquor stores) and not use or possess any drug unless prescribed by a physician. As a condition of probation you could be subject to “search and seizure.” This term means that law enforcement or a probation officer may search you, your property, or vehicle anytime of the day or night and your residence any time of the day or reasonable hour of the night. Law enforcement would not need any reason to search you once they are aware you are on probation.
Violation of probation hearings
If you are accused of a violation of probation, a judge may revoke your probation based on a finding of probable cause. At this point the term of your probation is tolled, meaning that time does not count towards your total probation term. If your probation is revoked, you are entitled to a hearing within a reasonable period of time. In Sonoma County, if you are accused of violating your felony probation you will be held in jail without bail until your case is resolved. Unlike a criminal charge, only a judge, not 12 jurors, hears your case. The prosecution has a lower burden of proof at a violation of probation hearing. The standard is preponderance of the evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you are entitled to at a jury trial. Sometimes prosecutors will elect to proceed by way of a violation of probation rather than pursue a new charge because the burden is easier for them to meet.
The courts and prosecutors do not take violations of probation lightly, neither should you. If you have or may be accused of violating your probation, contact or call the Law Office of Amy Chapman today at (707) 636-3207 to schedule a free consultation.