Not everyone who is convicted of a criminal offense deserves to be incarcerated as a result of that conviction. With this in mind, the criminal justice system in the United States relies heavily on alternatives to incarceration. Probation is, by far, the most commonly used of those alternatives. If you are convicted of a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska you may be sentenced to serve a period of time on probation in addition to, or in lieu of, a period of incarceration. While probation is certainly preferable to jail or prison, it should still be taken seriously as a violation can result in a lengthy term of imprisonment. If you have already been charged with a violation of your probation, or you anticipate being charged in the near future, you are likely wondering if criminal lawyers help with probation violations. The simple answer is “yes.”
Before discussing probation violations, it important to understand how an actual probation sentence works. All too often defendants only hear that they have been sentenced to “probation” and tune out the rest of the sentence. Failing to understand the terms of a sentence, however, could have serious negative consequences if you violate your probation before you complete it. Typically, when a judge hands down a sentence that includes probation the judge actually sentences the defendant to a period of incarceration but will then suspend that sentence and allow the time to be served on probation. For example, you might be sentence to 180 days in jail with the time you have not already served suspended. You will then be ordered to serve six months on probation, meaning you will not have to return to jail assuming you successfully complete your probation. That “suspended” time, however, is hanging over your head for the duration of your probation.
Although every probation order is unique, most include the condition that the defendant follow certain standard conditions of probation. Standard conditions are those that apply to all defendants, such as:
- Maintaining employment or enrollment in school
- Reporting to a probation officer as directed
- Not using illegal drugs or alcohol
- Payment of all fines and costs
- Not committing any new offenses
A defendant may also be ordered to abide by special conditions of probation. These are conditions that apply to the defendant or the case specifically, such as:
- Obeying a no contact order
- Attending anger management classes
- Completing a drug and alcohol evaluation
- Paying restitution to a victim
Throughout the duration of your probation the sentencing court maintains jurisdiction and oversight over you. While on probation, violating any of the conditions of your probation could result in a probation violation being filed with the court. If a violation is filed, the judge will issue an “order to appear” or an arrest warrant and set the matter for a hearing. At the hearing, if the judge concludes that you did, indeed, violate the terms of your probation one of three things will likely occur:
- Continue your probation unchanged – for a minor transgression the court may just slap you on the hand and allow you to continue on your probation with just a warning.
- Modify the terms of your probation – the judge could also allow you to continue on probation; however, with modifications, such as additional substance abuse treatment or the addition of community service hours of complete.
- Revoke your probation – if the violation is serious, and/or not he first time you have violated your probation, the judge could revoke your probation altogether. In that case, you could be ordered to serve some, or all, of your suspended sentence in jail.
How a Criminal Lawyer Can Help
Probation violation hearings are similar to a mini-trial; however, they are less formal and the rules of evidence do not apply. Make no mistake though, your freedom is very much at stake at a probation hearing. For this reason, you have the right to be represented by an attorney – a right that you should exercise. Criminal lawyers understand how probation violations work and are prepared to defend their clients at these hearings. Just as you needed an attorney for your original case, you need one if you have been accused of violating your probation to ensure that your rights are protected and to do everything possible to prevent your return to custody.
If you are facing a probation violation in Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense lawyer immediately. Contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney today.