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Over 4 million people in the U.S. are on probation each year. This comprises approximately 1.3% of the entire U.S. population. Roughly half of all those on probation are completing a felony probation period. Probation violations are all too common, and may be a central reason behind the burgeoning prison population in the U.S. Nearly one half of the American prison population is a direct result of failed probation or community supervisions. Each year, over 300,000 probationers, on average, are sent to prison as a result of violating the terms of their probation. In some states, it is not uncommon for over half of all probationers to violate the terms of their sentence.Why Are Probation Violations so Common?
As the above statistics illustrate, probation violations are shockingly common nationwide and in Massachusetts. The most prevalent reason for these mass probation violations is that probation is onerous and the terms are stringent. Probationers may be required to complete the many community service hours, attend meetings, pay fines, refrain from alcohol consumption, to name a few.
Probation violators include come from all walks of life. They can be professionals athletes, doctors, CEOs of major corporations and more. There are countless reasons why people might be on probation and often people can be on probation without having been convicted of a crime. For instance, people on pretrial probation or with continuances without a finding are technically on probation and if they violate the conditions thereof a probation surrender may be triggered.What Activities Can Constitute Violating My Probation?
Probation violations can be in the form of failing to comply with the terms of your probation, or performing an action that violates your probation. The following is a list of common activities that can trigger a probation violation:
- Failure to report—if you are on active probation, you will likely be required to report to your probation officer on a regular basis. A failure to report can result in a probation violation.
- Failure to pay fines and fees—probation can be expensive. Probationers must pay regular probation fees and are often levied court costs along with possibly restitution. A failure to pay these fines and fees at the time when they are due can result in a probation violation. If you think you may not be able to timely pay your fines and fees, it is best to consult with a knowledgeable probation violation defense attorney as you may be able to obtain more time to pay, and prevent violation of your probation.
- Use of drugs or alcohol—depending on the terms of your probation, you may have been ordered to refrain from using drugs and alcohol. Generally, your probation officer or the court will require you complete drug tests—and a drug test failure can result in a probation violation.
- Failure to complete community service—this is not always a requirement of one’s probation, but when it is the probationer must timely complete the required hours or face a probation violation.
- Associating with individuals you are required not to—probation that stems from a domestic violence incident, or other crime in which a victim is involved, will often require as a term of probation that the probationer stay away from that individual. Violating this condition can result in violation of probation.
- Conviction of a new crime--- this result in a probation violation, regardless of the crime.
- 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 charged with the new crime, or you are acquitted.
If your probation officer becomes aware of your alleged violations, he or she will file a “surrender notice” with the court to compel you to appear. You will likely receive a summons from the court, but court could also issue a warrant for your arrest. It is best to consult with an experienced probation violation defense attorney as soon as you receive notice that you may be accused of violating your probation, as the process will typically move quickly once the surrender notice is filed.What Happens Once I Am Accused of Violating My Probation?
Once the surrender notice has been filed, you will receive a summons or a warrant will issue requiring you to appear in court for the “initial surrender hearing.” At this hearing, you will be brought before the court and receive formal notice of your alleged probation violations. Typically, your probation officer will summarize the allegations and the judge will make a determination as to probable cause. Additionally, if your probation officer so requests and the judge agrees, you could be held in jail without bond until your final surrender hearing. Given the possibility of imprisonment and the crucial nature of the judge’s initial determinations, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced defense attorney to represent you at the initial surrender hearing.
If the judge finds probable cause to believe a probation violation has occurred, you will then appear at a final surrender hearing. At this hearing, your probation officer will likely call witnesses to prove the probation violation. Hearsay evidence is allowed. You have the opportunity to cross-examine these witnesses. You additionally have the option to stipulate to the violation, and it can be in your best interests to do so if you can negotiate a favorable consequence for the violation beforehand. A defense attorney with negotiation experience will be your best bet to negotiating a favorable agreement that allows you to continue your probation.What Happens If the Court Finds I Violated My Probation?
It depends upon the court and the violation. In the best of cases, you may be allowed to continue your probation but be required to adhere to stricter probationary terms or pay hefty. In the worst, your probation will be revoked and you will be required to serve the remainder of your sentence in prison. You could even have your sentence enhanced. For these reasons, it is critical that you consult with a knowledgeable defense attorney.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman has represented countless individuals at probation violation hearings with astounding success. Stephen Neyman will fight tirelessly to have your alleged probation violation dismissed, your probation terminated, or your probation continued on the original terms. The representation of a skilled criminal defense attorney at a probation violation hearing can mean the difference between jail time and freedom. Call The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman today at (617) 263-6800 to schedule an initial consultation.
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