Probation refers to a criminal sentence that is not spent in jail. Individuals who have been convicted of a crime can be placed on probation when a judge determines that he or she is not a threat to society and that incarceration is not an appropriate punishment.
When the rules are broken, probation can either be revoked by a judge or the terms made stricter. In the state of Texas, if the prosecutor can show during a revocation hearing that the probation was violated, jail time is also a possibility. This is a guide on how to get through a probation violation hearing without winding up in jail.
What Constitutes a Probation Violation?
The terms of probation may include living where directed, submitting to drug and alcohol tests, participating in rehabilitation programs, maintaining employment, performing community service, and attending regular meetings with a probation officer. These terms depend on the nature and severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history.
A probation violation happens when one or more terms are not met during the probationary period. Common types of probation violations include:
- Committing other crimes or offenses
- Possessing, using, or selling illegal drugs
- Not reporting to the probation officer
- Traveling out of state or county without permission from the probation officer
- Failure to appear in court at a scheduled date and time
- Not paying required fines or restitution as ordered by a court
- Not keeping a job or attending school
- Getting arrested for another offense
Probation usually lasts from one to three years, but may go on longer depending on the original offense and the occurrence of a violation.
What are the Consequences of Violating Probation?
When probation is violated in Texas, the severity of the violation will determine the outcome. It may result in a warning or a request to appear in court. If a court appearance is required, the probation officer will ask the judge for some type of penalty. This could be performing community service or attending a rehabilitation “boot camp” aimed at correcting behavior. A more serious penalty may include paying a large fine or spending time in jail. Even for a first-time violation, the probation officer can file a report prompting the court to issue a warrant for arrest.
Should a violation result in an arrest, the person can be held in county jail. A hearing to revoke the probation would then be scheduled.
What to Expect at a Probation Violation Hearing
During a probation violation hearing, the prosecuting attorney must prove a violation occurred by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This means that there is a greater than 50% likelihood that probation was violated. The judge might consider the nature, type, and seriousness of the claimed violation, as well as a history of prior probation violations and other mitigating circumstances.
The defendant and his or her lawyer can argue that there was no probation violation. They can stress that any violation that appeared to occur was minor and that probation should not be revoked.
If the person is found guilty of violating probation, sentencing will happen next. This could take the form of extending the time of the probation, imposing additional probationary terms, or spending a brief time in jail. In the worst-case scenario, probation can be revoked altogether with the guilty party being required to serve out any remaining time on the original sentence in prison.
How to Get Through a Hearing Without Jail Time
When facing charges for probation violations, knowing your legal rights is the first step to avoiding or at least minimizing additional penalties and consequences.
You have a right to:
- Receive written notice of the violations that are claimed against you
- Have your case heard by a neutral judge in a court of law
- Have legal representation
- Present your own evidence and witnesses to support your case
Speaking with an experienced probation violation attorney can help you understand your rights and the law as it stands. Texas does not use a jury for probation violation hearings, but a qualified lawyer will address your particular needs and represent you in court to help you avoid jail time.
Get Help for Your Probation Violation Hearing
For the best outcome of your probation violation hearing, you need expert legal advice. The professionals at Stephen T. Bowling focus on getting you the results you need so that you can get on with your life. Call us at (512) 601-8184 if you are facing a probation violation court date. We offer free case evaluation and transparent flat fees with monthly payment plans.