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Understanding the consequences of probation violation

Probation is a form of community supervision granted to low risk offenders in lieu of incarceration with the main goal of rehabilitation. During the probationary period, the person must comply with any conditions ordered by the court. The length of the probationary period and the terms differ for each case and usually depend on the severity of the offense and any prior convictions. The state of Florida views probation as a privilege and not a right.

What is a violation?

A probation violation occurs when a person is seen as willfully and substantially violating the terms of their probationary sentence. Probationary violations should not be taken lightly as cases have a lower standard of proof. During probationary hearings hearsay is admissible as evidence. Also, probationary cases lack many of the constitutional protections and procedural norms associated with standard cases.

Common violations

Although difference circumstances can lead to a probation violation, the majority of violations stem from the following:

  • Law violations or new offenses: Although arrest alone is not a probation violation, the burden of proof is less and repeat convictions are common.
  • Drug use: The use of drugs is easily detected through blood or urine tests, which are often included in the probationary terms. Failure to complete court order treatment programs are also a violation.
  • Failing to pay financial obligations: You are responsible for paying court costs, restitution, fines, drug testing costs and any other related cost listed in the probation violation document.
  • Missed appointments or reports: Missing meetings with your probationary officer or not completing or submitting required monthly reports is another common violation.
  • Mental illness, ineptitude or negligence: Although these are not willful violations, they can be considered substantial nonetheless and lead to a revocation of probation.

Violation proceedings

If you are suspected of a probation violation, your probation officer will present the court with a sworn statement that he or she has reasonable grounds to believe you committed a violation. The statement will be reviewed by the court and if the court finds reasonable grounds an arrest warrant will be issued. Often bail will not be set and you must wait for your hearing in jail.

During the arraignment hearing the court prosecutor must prove willful and substantial violation. You can testify on your own behalf and the court can even order you to testify. Although the Fifth Amendment protects you from self incrimination, Florida appellate courts have consistently held that the acceptance of the probationary agreement waives self incrimination rights.

Probation violation can lead to additional incarceration time, increased fines or a longer probationary period. Probationary terms should not be taken lightly and violation of the terms is a serious offense which can lead to additional charges.

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