Violations of Probation in Florida
One of the biggest problems with Florida’s criminal justice system is the extraordinary number of people on probation. A person is put on probation by a judge when he or she either pleads guilty to a criminal charge or is found guilty by a jury and must serve a probationary period as part of the given sentence. In the State of Florida, the maximum amount of time that you can be placed on probation for a single misdemeanor criminal charge is one year. That said, if you are convicted of a felony charge, you might be placed on probation for several years. Additionally, if you are placed on probation for a felony you will be supervised by a state agency called the Florida Department of Corrections. During probation, you will required to do certain things known as “conditions of probation.” These conditions usually consist of things like paying court fines and fees, subjecting to random urine tests, and going to rehab. In many cases, you will also be ordered to pay “restitution” to the victim of the case and cover any monetary loss that was incurred as a result of your crime. You may also be required to stay away from the victim of the crime and/or the area in which the crime occurred. When you go to court and the judge reads your sentence, he or she will tell you all of the conditions that are part of your probation as well as where to report for probation.
When you are on probation, you will be supervised by a probation officer. This government employee will monitor what you do and make sure that you are adhering to the conditions of your probation. If you are arrested for another crime or fail to complete the conditions, the probation officer can file an affidavit with the judge attesting to the fact that you committed a transgression and should be arrested for a “violation of probation.” When this happens, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest and you can be taken to jail. In most of these instances, you would be held in jail without bond and not released until you appear in front of a judge.
If you are charged with violating your probation, you will not have the right to a jury trial. However, the evidence against you will be heard by a judge in what is called an “evidentiary hearing.” During this hearing, the judge will decide if the State of Florida has proven that your violation was willful and substantial by the greater weight of the evidence. This is a much lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” After the judge hears the evidence against you, he or she will decide if you have violated your probation or if the violation should be dismissed. If the judge finds that you violated probation, he or she can sentence you to jail—or if you are on probation for a felony, to prison. Alternatively, the judge could place you back on probation and give you another chance to successfully complete the term. In my experience, judges will often give someone a second chance if they violate probation only once. However, every judge and case is different, and I would recommend seeking the advice of a criminal defense attorney if you or a family member has been accused of violating probation.
Being on probation can be a stressful process lasting for many years. If you violate your probation, you can be at serious risk of incarceration. An experienced attorney can help you through the process and protect your constitutional rights. A criminal defense lawyer can also negotiate a resolution of your probation violation with the prosecutor and the judge. In many cases, my clients were accused of violating probation when their actions were clearly not “willing and substantial” as is required by Florida law. If you have questions about a violation of probation, please feel free to call my office in Orlando, Florida at (407) 415-9626 or email me at Jeremiah@JeremiahDAllen.com.