If you were sentenced to serve a period of time on probation, either in lieu of a term of incarceration or following a period of time in jail, you must abide by the conditions of your probation or face a violation. If you are concerned a violation may be forthcoming, it is best to be proactive instead of just waiting to be arrested or served with an order to appear. Although probation violation hearings are less formal than a trial, you do have the right to be represented by an attorney at the hearing. Consulting a Nebraska criminal lawyer is definitely in your best interest if a probation violation is likely in the near future.
Understanding Your Sentence
One reason so many people end up violating their probation is they didn’t truly understand their sentence in the first place. Defendants often focus solely on the probation terms and don’t hear the rest of the sentencing terms. Probation is a sentencing alternative which allows a defendant to remain in the community instead of going to jail to serve a sentence. The important thing to understand, however, is that you were actually sentenced. By way of illustration, imagine you were convicted of driving under the influence. Because this was your first offense, you would likely be sentenced to a year in jail. However, the majority of that time can be suspended by the judge. The judge would likely require you to spend your suspended time on probation during which time the court retains jurisdiction over you. The part people frequently miss is the underlying sentence. As long as you successfully complete your probation, the underlying sentence won’t be revisited; but if you violate your probation, that sentence may come back to haunt you.
Understanding the Conditions of Probation
Probation is considered a privilege from a judge’s perspective. As such, there are conditions placed upon anyone who is allowed to spend their sentence out in the community on probation instead of in jail. Typically, you will have both standard and special conditions of probation with which you must comply. Standard conditions of probation include conditions that are placed upon everyone sentenced to probation and may include things such as:
- Reporting to an assigned probation officer on a weekly or monthly basis
- Getting or keeping a job
- Not being arrested for any new offenses
Special conditions of probation are conditions the judge imposes in your case based on the offense for which you were convicted and/or your own characteristics or history. Special conditions of probation might include things such as:
- Installing an ignition interlock device in your vehicle
- Paying restitution to a victim
- Attending anger management classes (or another type of class)
- Submitting to drug or alcohol tests
Consequences of Violating Your Probation
If your probation officer believes you violated any of the conditions of your probation, a notice of violation may be sent to the sentencing court. A hearing will be set to determine if you did, indeed, violate your probation. If the judge finds you did violate your probation, one of three things will likely occur:
- Nothing much – if the violation was not serious and you do not have a history of violations the judge might admonish you and send you back to probation.
- A little – a judge can alter, modify, or extend your probation if you violate the conditions of that probation. For example, the judge might add an additional 90 days to the term of your probation.
- A lot – worst-case scenario is revocation of your probation. If that happens, you will be returned to custody and required to serve a portion, or all, of your original sentence in jail.
How Can a Nebraska Criminal Lawyer Help?
You are entitled to have an attorney represent you at your probation violation hearing. It is in your best interest to exercise that right if you wish to increase your odds of remaining free. A criminal lawyer knows what the judge is looking for and how to make a winning argument that you did not violate your probation (when possible). If there is no way around a violation, your criminal attorney will focus on convincing the judge the violation was minor and doesn’t call for additional punishment or that modifying the terms of your probation is sufficient punishment for the violation.
If you are currently facing a possible probation violation in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal lawyer right away. In Nebraska, contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.