TIPS FOR AVOIDING OR MITIGATING A VIOLATION OF PROBATION
Probation is both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, it functions as an alternative resolution to jail time, restricting the defendant’s liberty with conditions rather than metal bars.
The downside is that the possibility of jail still looms over the probationer for the period of supervision, ready to take shape upon an alleged violation of probation (VOP).
A violation of probation can have a devastating impact on your liberty and future. For this reason, it is critical to avoid a VOP. If a VOP has already occurred, the next best option is to address it as quickly and cleverly as possible. Below are 7 tips for avoiding, or minimizing the impact of, a violation of probation.
1. COMPLETE ALL PROBATIONARY TERMS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Except for certain terms with certain specific deadlines, the rules of probation typically require the defendant to complete all the terms of probation one month before the end of probation. For many cases, this means the probationer has several months or even years to complete the terms. This is not an invitation to procrastinate. Most conditions of probation take a while to complete and being proactive is the best way to ensure compliance. Completing probation terms early also shows the probation officer and the court respect for the sentence and the process. This could go a long way if you inadvertently miss an appointment, complete a term incorrectly, or otherwise fail to complete a condition of probation.
2. DON’T JUST COMPLETE THE TERMS – PROVIDE THE PROOF AND FOLLOW UP. If probation never receives the certificate of completion for your anger management class, the letter from the nonprofit organization regarding your community service hours, or anything else, you will likely have a violation of probation. It is not enough to say you completed the terms; it is not even enough to provide the proof without confirming probation received it. THE BURDEN IS ON YOU to make sure your probation officer has officially received and documented completion of every condition. If probation doesn’t acknowledge receipt of something, it never happened.
3. IF A CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCE PREVENTS YOU FROM COMPLYING WITH PROBATION, CONTACT AN ATTORNEY TO ASK FOR MODIFICATION OF THE TERMS. You may have to travel for an emergency; alternatively, you may have changed jobs and now must commute out of county to work. Regardless of the circumstance, you are responsible for completing the stated terms of probation. The best practice is to ask your probation officer (in writing) ahead of taking any new action whether the proposed action is permissible. If it isn’t, contact an attorney right away to assess the possibility of filing a Motion to Modify Probation with respect to the term in question. What you shouldn’t do is carry on without checking or attempting to make a modification. The latter is a recipe for a VOP.
4. KEEP A COPY OF YOUR OWN DOCUMENTATION. Probation may have received your documentation evidencing completion of certain terms. However, due to the volume of cases probation manages, it’s possible some of your paperwork could get lost in the shuffle. To avoid a VOP for a silly snafu, keep your documents and keep them organized. If you need to resend something to probation or the court, you won’t have an issue.
5. DON’T GET ON PROBATION IF YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T COMPLETE THE TERMS. It goes without saying…and yet we must say it. When considering your options for a plea deal, avoid probation if possible if you know you will fail. If you don’t have time for community service, or if you will continue using marijuana without a prescription, for example, probation is not a good fit for you. Set yourself up for success by understanding what is required of you ahead of time and making a realistic assessment as to whether you can take on the terms and conditions.
6. COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR PROBATION OFFICER IS KEY. Most probation officers want to help the probationer and want to see them succeed. If you are unclear on a probation instruction, ask the probation officer to clarify or elaborate. Show your good faith intention to comply with probationary terms. The better your relationship with your probation officer, the lower the likelihood of a violation.
7. IF A VIOLATION IS COMING DOWN THE PIPES, DON’T MAKE ANY ADMISSIONS – CONTACT A LAWYER IMMEDIATELY. Sometimes, despite best efforts, a violation of probation occurs. This doesn’t mean you should sit back and accept your fate. Much to the contrary, when receiving a notice of violation, you should act immediately to mitigate the situation. You should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. A violation of probation defense attorney can: (1) request a Notice to Appear rather than a warrant for your arrest, (2) begin gathering information and preparing your defense; (3) talk to your probation officer while preserving your right to remain silent; (4) inquire about the PO’s recommendations to the court; (5) negotiate with the prosecution regarding the plea offer for your VOP; and (6) determine whether anything can be done to remedy the violation and withdraw the affidavit of violation of probation.
We are here to help.
A Violation of Probation is arguably a more serious matter than the underlying charge. It may result in a conviction, jail time, and added probationary conditions where you otherwise wouldn’t have had these forms of punishment. Naturally, we recommend avoiding a VOP altogether by exercising extreme caution, attention, and due diligence. Nevertheless, our criminal defense law firm is ready to fight for you should you encounter a violation of probation allegation. Contact our VOP defense firm today for experienced defense.