How Do Probation Violations Commonly Occur And Why?

Interviewer: How do people going through the court system view probation? Do they look at it as a bummer; a relief because they weren’t sentenced to jail, or as both?

Ladan Law: Defendants can be relieved they have been given a probationary offer if it is a serious case; or they can be irritated that their behavior necessitates supervised probation.

Let’s talk about probation as a whole. Probation is not designed to be a very user-friendly system. As a penalty for violating your probation, the state can sentence you up to whatever they could have sentenced you for originally on the case.

Say your case has a maximum of a year in jail. You go in and the prosecutor offers you probation which you accept. You could violate that probation a number of ways: not showing up to meet your probation officer on time; not completing a class; or committing any new law offense while you are on probation.

You could violate your probation, and then guess what? You are subject to whatever sanctions they could have done to you the first time. Some defendants consider this as kind of a set-up. The reason they consider it a set-up is, to prove a criminal case you have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

To prove a violation of probation, there needs to be a preponderance of the evidence. Clear and convincing is the standard. That is a lower standard than beyond, and to the exclusion, of every reasonable doubt.

It is much easier for a prosecutor to get a conviction on a violation of probation, in front of the judge with no jury. There is a lower standard than it would be to convict them, according to the higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, with a unanimous verdict from a jury of their peers.

That is why probation is a tool that is often used. The dirty secret is prosecutors will offer probation to people they suspect will not be able to complete probation. This is because it will be easier to convict them in the future.

Interviewer: Hasn’t their case already been decided based on merits, and that is why they have probation in the first place?

Ladan Law: In a perfect world, a prosecutor will take a look at the case and decide it is not worthy of jail time. The prosecutor will then offer probation. That offer will be acceptable by the defendant. As I said, the system has evolved and everybody knows the secret of probation is it is difficult to complete probation.

It requires a significant amount of work. It requires that you have transportation to and from your meetings. It has a requirement that you make your monetary obligations, which can be expensive. I believe county probation is $40 to $50 a month, and state probation is $20 a month.

State probation supervises all felony probations. It is difficult to make it through probation. Everybody knows probation for some cases, although attractive, may not be the best option in the long run. You may win the battle and lose the war.

Author: Amir Ladan
A former assistant state attorney for Orange/Osceola Counties, Amir has handled thousands of cases and dozens of trials, ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to murder, in both adult and juvenile court.

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