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What happens if I violate my probation?

Whether you are in the pre-sentencing stage or have been convicted of a crime, the judge may have opted to put you on probation as opposed to imprisonment. There are certain legal restrictions that you will have to observe such as abstaining from the illegal use of drugs, not carrying a firearm, and refraining from getting into any additional legal trouble of any kind.

Also, other restrictions that your probation officer will impose. If you don't follow the rules of your probation, you do run the risk of making your legal situation worse. So what happens if you commit a probation violation?

The type of violation matters

There are generally two types of violations that can be committed against your probation: technical and substantive. Some technical violations include the following.

  • Missing or arriving late to your reporting dates.
  • Failing to report a change of address.
  • Leaving the state without prior consent.

A substantive violation may include the commission of new crimes, whether or not they lead to conviction. There are more variables to the technical violation than that of a substantive one. However, the penalties can be just as severe.

The myth about probation officers' power

Contrary to popular belief, your probation officer does not have the final say regarding your violation. While it is the job of a probation officer to supervise you, it is also their job to keep you out of jail.

When you're on probation, you may live in fear of your probation officer filing what's known as a violation of probation (VOP) claim. But a VOP doesn't have to mean jail time.

When a probation officer files a VOP claim, it goes before a judge. The judge will then decide what to do, and they have several choices. They may elect to revoke your probation, which means that you will be remanded to a detention center to serve the remaining time of your probation in jail. Or, they can extend your period of probation or determine that you need to enter into additional programs as a term of your probation.

It is important to understand that any of these legal events should not be tackled alone without the assistance of a lawyer to speak on your behalf. The fact is that a VOP claim is handled much differently than a customary criminal trial. The state does not have to prove the case to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. And, these proceedings are not heard in front of a jury.

If you have questions about the details of probation and how they affect your case, it can be worth it to consult a knowledgeable attorney who can make sure your rights are protected. A quick phone call can make the difference between freedom and jail time.

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