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In California, individuals convicted of misdemeanor or felony offenses may sometimes be sentenced to probation instead of serving time in a jail or prison. Probation is generally viewed as a preferable alternative to incarceration, and may be considered for low-risk or first-time offenders. Under California Penal Code section 1203.3,
“(a) The court has the authority at any time during the term of probation to revoke, modify, or change its order of suspension of imposition or execution of sentence. The court may at any time when the ends of justice will be subserved thereby, and when the good conduct and reform of the person so held on probation shall warrant it, terminate the period of probation, and discharge the person held.”
When you are sentenced to probation, you must comply with a laundry list of strict requirements and may also need to meet regularly with your probation officer. If you fail to abide by the rules, you may be charged with a probation violation. A probation violation is treated as a criminal offense and may lead to penalties such as fines and an extension of your probation period or a revocation of your probation. If the judge revokes probation, you may be incarcerated to complete your sentence.
Due to the strict nature of probation, several actions may be grounds for a violation. Your probation officer determines whether the action you took is serious enough to be reported. Once they file a report, a hearing takes place in front of the judge who sentenced you to probation. You are encouraged to seek experienced legal counsel prior to attending this hearing.
Ways of Violating Probation
Violating probation can happen surprisingly easily. Some common violations may include:
- Not appearing for a scheduled court date
- Failing to report to your probation officer
- Getting arrested for a new offense
- Leaving the State of California without permission from your probation officer
- Failing to pay required fines associated with probation
- Failing to pay restitution to victims
- Failing drug or alcohol tests
- Associating with others who have criminal records
- Losing your job
There are many other possible violations. Whether or not you violated probation depends on the terms set by the judge in your specific case. Talk to your criminal lawyer if you believe you might have violated probation.
What Will Happen at a Probation Violation Hearing?
At a probation violation hearing, you and your attorney will appear before the judge who sentenced you. The judge will hear your case to determine whether you violated any terms or conditions of your probation. They will listen to the facts of your case as told by your probation officer.
The prosecuting attorney will attempt to prove a violation occurred by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This standard means there is a likelihood of more than 50% that you violated probation. A jury does not deliberate on a probation violation hearing. Instead, the judge will rely on your probation officer’s recommendations to determine whether to extend or revoke your probation. Your lawyer may present evidence to support your innocence or provide an explanation for the behavior that prompted the violation in an attempt to mitigate the penalties.
How to Prepare for a Probation Violation Hearing
A probation violation hearing is not much different from any other time you must appear in court. By following these general guidelines, you may help your attorney present a stronger argument for a dismissal of the violation or a less serious penalty.
- Dress appropriately
- Arrive to court at least 15 minutes early
- Be respectful to everyone in the courtroom
- Allow your attorney to speak on your behalf
If you’ve been summoned to appear in court for a probation violation hearing, the first step you should take is always to contact your lawyer.
Contact Dod Law to Prepare for Your Hearing!
Attorney Dod of Dod Law has more than 17 years of experience representing individuals accused of criminal offenses throughout Southern California. As a San Diego criminal defense lawyer, he can help you gather evidence that may allow you to stay on probation and avoid the worst penalties of a violation. Find out how he can help your case by calling 619-814-5110 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.