Articles Posted in Probation Violations

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So you find yourself on probation after working out a plea bargain with the District Attorney.  Your lawyer and you have entered into a deal where you will spend 3 years on formal supervised probation.  What does this really mean to you though?  

Being on probation is when you are conditionally released back into the community instead of going to jail or prison for the maximum term possible for whatever crime you committed.  Let’s say you plead guilty to a crime that has a maximum possible sentence of 3 years in custody.  Instead of serving those 3 years in custody and being done with your obligations, you are put on put on probation.  You are released into the community but the possibility of doing the 3 years in custody hangs over you if you don’t meet all the obligations of being on probation.  

One common requirement of someone on probation is that the probationer not possess firearms or illegal drugs.  This seems pretty clear.  If you are on probation you shouldn’t have in your possession guns or illegal drugs.  However, recently in the case of People v Hall (2017 D.A.R. 1235 February 9, 2017) the question was does the probationer have to be in knowing possession.  

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What does it mean when someone is put on probation? Many times you’ll hear a defendant is put on probation after either a guilty plea or as part of a sentence following a guilty verdict. First of all, probation is a conditional sentence. When someone is judged to be guilty as a result of a plea or guilty verdict the judge can sentence the defendant to the maximum penalty under the law. If that happens there isn’t any more punishment to be had and there isn’t any probation. But, a conditional sentence means that the judge is giving a sentence less than the maximum and in consideration of that the defendant is told he is on probation to the court, usually on certain conditions.

The conditions of probation can be whatever the judge orders someone to do as a result of the conviction. For example, the judge can order the defendant to serve 30 days of community service as a condition of probation. If the defendant doesn’t do the community service the judge can find a violation of probation and impose some or all of the rest of the maximum sentence. It works something like reward and punishment. If you do what you are ordered to do the reward is no more jail time or fines or whatever else the judge might do if you don’t follow through. Punishment comes into play when the defendant fails to live up to his promise to the judge that he would abide by the conditions of his probation. That punishment can be up to whatever the maximum is for whatever crime the defendant was convicted of when he plead or was found guilty.

When a defendant is sentenced to probation, either formal (with a probation officer ) or informal (without) the defendant is asked: “Do you accept the conditions of probation as I have stated them?” If the defendant says yes, he has a contract with the court to accomplish whatever it is the judge has set out for him to do.