Probation is a sentencing option that can be used when an individual has been convicted of a criminal offense in addition to, or in lieu of, ordering the defendant to serve a term of incarceration. If you were placed on probation, and have recently been informed that a violation of that probation is being filed, or you are concerned that one will be filed, you should take the situation seriously. Do not make the mistake many people make of treating a probation violation as nothing to worry about – most of those people are sitting in jail as a result of that train of thought. You may be wondering, at this point, if you need a defense attorney to represent you for your probation violation. The simple answer to that is “yes.” While you are not required to have a defense attorney represent you, retaining one may be the difference between remaining free and returning to custody.
When most people are sentenced to probation they pay very little attention to the actual sentence handed down by the court. Instead, all they are concerned with is that their sentence does not require them to return to jail. While this is understandable, it often creates serious problems down the road. As a general rule, when you receive a probation sentence you actually receive a sentence that includes a term of imprisonment; however, that term of imprisonment is suspended. For example, if you are convicted of possession of marijuana you might be sentenced to a year of imprisonment with all of the time not already served suspended. This means that the entire sentence, minus any days you already spent in jail when you were arrested, is suspended. This is the part people frequently don’t hear or don’t understand. The court then orders you to also serve a period of time on probation. Your suspended sentence is important because if you violate your probation the court could revoke your probation and order you to actually serve your entire suspended sentence in jail or prison.
Conditions of Probation
For the duration of the time you are on probation you must abide by all standard and special conditions of probation. Standard conditions of probation are conditions that apply to everyone on probation and typically include things such as:
- Reporting to a probation officer
- Maintaining employment or enrollment in school
- Paying fines, costs, and fees
- Not committing any new crimes
In addition to the standard conditions, you may also be sentenced to special conditions of probation which are conditions that relate specifically to your crime or your situation. These conditions might include:
- Attending substance abuse classes or treatment
- Suspending your driver’s license and/or installing an ignition interlock device
- Paying restitution
- Attending an anger management class
- Abiding by a no contact order
Do I Need a Defense Attorney for the Probation Violation Hearing?
If you violate any of the conditions of your probation your probation officer may file a notice of violation with the court. The court will then order you to appear, or issue an arrest warrant. The court will also set the matter for a violation hearing. A probation violation hearing is less formal than a criminal trial; however, many of the same rules and protections apply, including the right to an attorney. You would be a wise to exercise your right to an attorney because if the judge finds that you did, indeed, violate your probation one of three things will happen:
- Continue 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.
- Modification of terms – 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.
- Revocation – 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.
Given what is at stake at a probation violation hearing, it only makes sense to have an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney by your side.
If you have been notified that a violation of your probation has been filed, or you fear one will be in the near future,, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska defense attorney. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced drug crime attorney.