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Just because you were arrested and convicted of a crime in Florida doesn’t mean everyone has given up on you. The courts have the option to give you probation depending on the nature of the crime and, more importantly, the kind of person you are. You have the opportunity to stay out of jail and try to get your life back on track.
Unfortunately, things can happen during your probation that put you back in court, facing the judge, and trying to explain why you deserve a third chance after losing the second chance. Maybe it wasn’t your fault, or maybe you didn’t realize you had violated your probation.
When You Get Probation
Probation in Florida is an alternative form of court supervision for those convicted of a crime. Anyone may be placed on probation except those convicted of or who have pleaded guilty to a capital offense. Florida law allows a judge to evaluate a defendant to determine their suitability for probation based on the severity of the crime, the likelihood of reoffending, and other factors.
Types of Probation
Probation is classified by the amount of supervision and control placed on the defendant. There can be specialized types of probation for those who require treatment for other conditions, such as mental health, substance abuse, or anger management.
- Administrative probation is no-contact and non-reporting. Usually, you will only have to periodically check in at a reporting kiosk or the court. If you maintain the terms of your probation, this is the lightest form of probation.
- Standard probation, the type most people think of when discussing probation, allows you to remain in the community without restrictions, but you must report to a probation officer regularly. If you do not violate the conditions, you may be allowed to transfer to administrative probation halfway through your term.
- Community control is sometimes called “house arrest.” You will be required to remain in your home and not be allowed to leave for any reason.
- Electronic monitoring is becoming increasingly popular. If you qualify for electronic monitoring, you will be given an ankle monitor that must remain in range of a device for the duration of your probation. Sometimes electronic monitoring replaces reporting to a probation officer or checking in at a kiosk.
- Specialized types of probation recognize that some offenders commit crimes because of underlying mental or emotional problems. These probation plans incorporate treatment plans along with regular supervision.
- Drug offender probation usually includes a requirement for drug rehab, individualized therapy or treatment plans, and drug testing.
- Mental health probation includes diagnosis and treatment for underlying psychiatric problems, including compliance with any medication or therapy ordered by a psychiatrist.
- Sex offender probation may require electronic monitoring, regular meetings with a specialized probation officer, and intensive surveillance, including polygraph examinations and home visits.
- Veteran’s court is a type of court that may incorporate any or all of these probationary measures. Veteran’s court recognizes the impact of combat on an individual and attempts to treat this cause of behavior rather than penalizing it.
Probation usually lasts the duration of whatever the sentence would have been for the underlying offense. In other words, if the crime would have gotten you three years in prison, you can expect to be on probation for three years.
How You Can Violate Probation
Whether you must report to a probation officer or check in to a reporting kiosk once a week, you can be “violated” if you break one of the terms of your probation. When the judge places you on probation, you will be given a list of things you can and cannot do for the entire sentence. If you’re unsure of any of them, you need to ask your attorney, because it is possible to violate your probation without knowing it.
The purpose of probation is to let you demonstrate that you are responsible and trying to avoid any further criminal behavior. To show the court that you are doing that, probation requirements are intended to make you behave like a reliable person. The most frequent requirements of probation will include the following:
- Regular reporting
- Maintaining employment
- Notifying the court if you have contact with law enforcement
- Notifying the court if you leave the area
- Paying court-ordered fees and costs
- No further unlawful conduct.
Depending on the nature of the offense, you may also be ordered to carry out other tasks to show you are trying to correct whatever problems may have led to the criminal behavior. The court may order you to:
- Submit to random drug and alcohol testing
- Complete a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program
- Complete other rehab or related courses (parenting, anger management)
- Community service
- Pay victim restitution or child support as ordered.
The purpose of these things is not meant as punishment, although some people believe it is. It addresses substance abuse, mental illness, or behavior problems that put you in the courtroom.
Occur when you fail to complete one of the terms of your probation. Although you would typically not be arrested for such an incident, your probation may be violated or the level increased.
Occur when you commit another arrestable offense.
One easy way to violate probation is to have contact with law enforcement and fail to report it to your probation officer. For instance, suppose you are on administrative probation and going to work as usual. You are driving a little too fast and are pulled over for speeding. After a brief discussion, when you are honest and let the officer know you are on probation, the officer lets you go with a warning.
You must still report that brief, neutral encounter to your probation officer. The traffic officer will still file a report that will make its way to your probation officer’s desk, and then they will wonder why you didn’t tell them about it. Being stopped for a minor traffic offense will not get your probation revoked but failing to tell your probation officer might.
Other technical violations
Can include failing to pay restitution or child support as ordered, failing to attend classes, leaving the area without notifying your probation officer, and failing to maintain employment.
Sometimes life can get in the way. If there is a reason why you can’t pay your child support or attend court-ordered classes, don’t just ignore them. You need the help of a Florida probation violations attorney to advocate for you with the court. We can explain the situation and help keep you from ending up in jail or worse.
What to do When You Violate Probation
First, don’t panic. Because of the strict nature of probation, it is easy to accidentally “violate” your probation by going out for a drink after work or forgetting what day you were supposed to meet with your probation officer. A technical violation, especially your first, can be straightened out with an honest call to your probation officer. A substantive violation may require an attorney’s assistance.
Once your probation officer learns you have violated your probation, they can ask for a Violation of Probation hearing, or “VOP.” The judge may issue an arrest warrant for your VOP hearing, and if they do, it will probably be a no-bond warrant, meaning you’ll stay in jail from the arrest to the hearing. Suppose you know you’ve done something that may have violated your probation. In that case, your best option is to contact an attorney who can speak to your probation officer about any potential hearings.
The VOP hearing provides less legal protection to defendants than the original trial. All the probation officer needs to do is show a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning it is more likely than not that you violated your probation. For instance:
- You were supposed to show up for drug testing and did not, or your drug test was dirty.
- You missed multiple appointments with your probation officer.
- You committed another offense or had negative contact with law enforcement which you did not report.
- You failed to make court-ordered restitution or other payments.
- You did not get or keep a job or were fired and did not report it to your probation officer.
The probation officer does not need to present any other witnesses, and you can be compelled to testify against yourself during a VOP hearing. Since you were already found guilty of the crime which put you on probation, the only question now is whether you can stay out of jail.
Having an attorney represent you is critical during your VOP hearing. There may be reasons why you did not appear at a hearing or failed to report to your probation officer. Any evidence you can present on your behalf must be brought to the court’s attention. Your attorney can also negotiate before the hearing with the prosecutor and the probation officer to discuss alternatives to incarceration.
Penalties for Violating Probation
Probation is considered a privilege in Florida, and the courts do not look kindly on violators. Even if it was only a technical violation, if it was serious enough for your probation officer to demand a VOP hearing, the judge may impose a harsher penalty than previously given.
If the judge determines you violated your probation, one of three things may happen.
- They may reinstate your probation as it was previously.
- They may reinstate probation with harsher terms or increased length.
- They may revoke probation and send you to jail or prison according to the original sentence.
Florida state statutes prohibit the judge from imposing a longer term than the statutory maximum (Florida State Statute 948.06). Still, they can sentence you to more time than any plea bargain or other agreement.
Revocation is the most likely result if the judge finds that you committed a serious substantive violation, such as committing a violent felony. Modification is the most common outcome of a VOP hearing. It is very rare for probation to be reinstated.
How a Florida Probation Violation Attorney Can Help
When facing a prosecutor with all the facts on their side, it helps to have someone who knows what they’re doing. Attorney Barry Taracks is a former state prosecutor who knows what criminal prosecution is all about and will use that knowledge in your defense.
Even before a VOP hearing, the legal team at Taracks & Associates will assemble your case and review all the facts to ensure that your matter is presented in the best possible light. Our goal is to keep you out of jail and get you back on track.
Your attorney will discuss the case with the prosecutor and probation officer to see if alternatives such as modified probation or community control would better serve the purpose than incarceration. We want our clients to have the best chance of staying out of prison and keeping their records clean.
Give us a call if you have gotten a hearing notice or think you may have violated your probation and are worried about a possible VOP from your probation officer. If you have a family member who has already been violated and is waiting for their hearing, we can help. Our attorneys are standing by to advocate for you no matter what.
Like a prison sentence, you can get a reduced probation sentence if you follow all the rules and do not re-offend. At Taracks & Associates, we can review your case and determine when it is appropriate to petition the court for a reduction in your probation terms.
We are located in Tampa, Florida, and have a 24/7 presence online. Call us at (813) 281-2897 or contact us today on our intake form.