When a defendant is convicted of a criminal offense, the Judge often has the option to sentence the defendant to a period of time on probation in lieu of, or in addition to, a term of incarceration in the county jail or state prison. If you were ordered to serve a probation sentence, and you have been notified that a violation of your probation has been filed with the court, or you anticipate that one will be filed in the near future, you must act now because the consequences may be serious. In fact, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Omaha defense attorney immediately if you have reason to believe that a violation of probation will be filed in your case.
Understanding Your Probation Sentence
Often, the cause of a probation violation is based on a failure to understand the terms of the original probation sentence and/or a failure to understand the consequences of violating that sentence. Probation is a sentencing alternative. It is a privilege, in the eyes of the court, not a right. As a result, Judges tend to take violations seriously. To avoid violating your probation, you need to have a firm understanding of the terms of your probation from the start.
When you are ordered to serve a period of time on probation, there will be standard terms of probation that go along with that sentence. In addition, you may have special terms of probation as well. Standard terms of probation are terms that every probationer must comply with and may include things such as:
- Reporting to a probation official as directed
- Maintaining employment and/or enrollment in school
- Submitting to drug and alcohol testing and not testing positive
- Not getting arrested for a new offense
Special conditions of probation are terms that apply to your sentence specifically and are tailored to your offense and/or to your history. Examples of special terms of probation may include:
- Attending a theft class
- Completing a substance abuse evaluation and treatment
- Paying restitution
- Obeying a no contact order
It is equally important that you understand your suspended sentence. Typically, a judge will actually sentence you to a term of incarceration but then suspend that sentence and allow you to complete the time on probation – IF you do not violate your probation. For example, you might be sentenced to 365 days in jail, with all time suspended, and 365 days on probation. What that means is that you have the 365 day jail sentence hanging over your head in the event that you violate your probation.
What Happens at a Probation Violation Hearing?
If you are accused of violating your probation, the court will set a hearing date. At the hearing, the state will present its evidence of the violation. A probation violation hearing is similar to a regular trial. However, the burden is preponderance of the evidence which is much less than necessary at a trial. As the defendant, you are allowed to present a defense and you are wise to do so. You are also entitled to have an attorney represent you at the hearing. The Judge will decide if a violation occurred after both sides present their case. If the Judge decides you did violate your probation, he or she may do one of three things:
- Issue a warning – for a minor violation with no history of violations the judge may simply issue a warning.
- Continue with modifications – you may be continued on probation but with additional time or additional conditions.
- Revoke – the judge can revoke your probation and order you to serve some, or all, of the original penalties that applied to your case including the maximum sentence in jail or prison.
Contact an Omaha Defense Attorney
If you have been notified that a probation violation has been filed or will be filed, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Omaha defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney. We are happy to help.