Violation of Probation in Florida: What Are the Consequences and How to Defend Yourself
In the state of Florida, when you are convicted of a crime, the presiding judge will be the one to determine your sentence. Depending on the exact nature of your case, as well as your personal record, that sentence can range from jail time (the most severe) to probation (considered less severe) and fines.
If you’ve been found guilty or have plead guilty, and are eligible for jail time, receiving a probation sentence is often considered a victory. It will reduce the amount of personal hardship you will face as a result of your crime and will speed up how much time it takes to return to your normal life.
However, probation does not mean you are free. You have still committed a crime, and while on probation, you must adhere to certain rules. If you fail to do so, you will be charged with violation of probation (VOP). This is a serious matter.
If you’ve been charged with violation of probation in Sarasota, Florida, contact us today and we will put you in touch with one of our experienced lawyers.
What is a Violation of Probation?
Probation is a type of community control in which the offender must follow court ordered terms and conditions instead of going to jail.
A Violation of Probation (VOP) is when these terms and conditions are “willfully and substantively” disobeyed or violated. In other words, if you’ve been charged with VOP, you’ve been accused of breaking the rules set for you by the state.
These specific rules will depend on your case and the judge who presided over it, but they often include things such as:
- Reporting to a probation officer on a regular basis
- Adhering to a nightly curfew
- Remaining drug free and proving you are with regular state-conducted drug tests
- Staying inside your home city or state, and requesting permission if and when you’d like to leave
- Giving up ownership of firearms and other weapons
- Remaining employed
- Paying restitution to the court
Two Different Types of VOP
In the state of Florida, as in most states, there are two different kinds of violation of probation: technical and substantive.
Technical violation of probation simply means you violated one of the conditions of your probation. For example, if you have been ordered by the state not to leave your home city and are found to have done so, you have committed technical violation of probation.
Another common offense is failing a drug test or being found with a firearm.
Substantive violation of probation occurs when you have been accused of and found guilty of committing a state or federal crime while on probation. When this happens, your previous probation is effectively revoked, and you may be forced to face these charges again. In some instances, you may be required to serve the jail time you were excused from.
If not found guilty of this new offense, probation isn’t automatically revoked, though the courts may revisit the specifics of your case depending on the circumstances.
What Happens if You Are Charged with Violation of Probation?
Your probation officer is the one who will file the Violation of Probation charge. Once this happens, you will be summoned to court to defend yourself.
One important thing to note is that a violation of probation charge is not the same as a criminal charge. You have fewer protections and rights in these cases.
For example, you will not have the chance to present your case in front of a jury. Instead, you will have to defend yourself in front of a judge.
Also, the state does not have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you violated your probation. Instead, all they have to do is provide a “preponderance of evidence,” which is a lower legal standard and makes it easier for the state to get a conviction.
All of this is the case because the state of Florida deems probation to be a privilege and not a right. Therefore, you are not afforded the same protections in court.
What are The Consequences for Violating Probation?
If at your hearing you are deemed to have violated your probation, then there are several things the courts can do, such as:
Depending on the circumstances of your case, the court may decide to revoke your probation entirely. When this happens, the judge will review your case once again and will issue new sentencing, which could include jail time.
Another option the courts have is to modify the terms of your probation. This could include instituting new rules and conditions, or it may also mean extending the duration of your probation.
In some very rare cases, the courts may choose to continue your probation, which basically means that they let you off with a warning and continue your probation as it was before the violation. Again, this is a very uncommon result from these cases.
At any rate, these potential outcomes are only relevant to technical violations. Substantive violations are treated much more seriously and if found to be true always result in your probation being revoked.
Possible Defenses Against VOP
If you’ve been charged with violating your probation, not all hope is lost. There are a few different defenses you can use to try and keep yourself from losing this privilege or having it made more restrictive.
While your exact defense will depend on the specific nature of your case, most will revolve around one of the following concepts:
For a violation of probation charge to be filed, the state must prove that this violation was willful, i.e. intention.
For example, if part of your probation terms include remaining employed and you are let go from your job as a result of company-wide layoffs, this doesn’t necessarily qualify as a willful violation. Or, if you are expected to pay restitution to the court and are financially unable to do so at the time, this also doesn’t qualify as a willful violation.
The other important aspect of a violation of probation charge is that the courts must prove it was substantive, which usually means repeated.
For example, if you have a curfew as part of your probation and your probation officer knocks on your door while you are sleeping and you don’t answer, they may file a violation of probation, but this does not qualify.
Prepare Your Defense Against a Violation of Probation Charge
Because of the many gray areas involved in these cases, it’s important to have an experienced defense attorney working for you. They will be able to help you navigate the court proceedings while also preparing defense that will keep you out of trouble.
The experienced attorneys at Smith and Eulo Law Firm have been handling these types of cases in the Sarasota, FL area for many years and are well-equipped to help you with this difficult situation. Get in touch today so we can start preparing your defense.
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