What Is Probation and What Are the Guidelines?
Probation is a type of rehabilitation where the court allows a person to serve a sentence outside of jail. These sentences mandate strict supervision by a probation officer and require the person on probation to follow numerous guidelines. In the court’s eyes, probation is a chance for someone convicted of a crime to avoid jail time and as such they are investing a large amount of trust in the convicted to make good on the opportunity to prove they are a rehabilitated member of society. Probationers are expected to comply with all guidelines and probation violations often have severe consequences. The guidelines set by the court can vary depending on the situation, but common conditions (outlined in N.J.S.A. 2C:45-1) include the following:
- Regular meetings with a probation officer
- Restricting your travel to a certain area unless special permission is obtained
- Performing community service
- Limited alcohol use and no illegal use of controlled substances
- Attending drug abuse or anger management classes
- No firearm possession
- To either be working, seeking work or training/taking classes
- Staying arrest free
- Notifying the probation officer within 72 hours of any arrest or questioning by police
- Keeping up with child support, alimony and other family responsibilities
- Paying all court fees and fines
- Having restrictions placed on internet access
What Happens If I Commit a Probation Violation?
The consequences of probation violations are often harsh. Probation is essentially a suspended sentence, which means if you violate probation you can end up serving any remaining portion of the original jail sentence. Whenever you commit a probation violation, your probation officer files a complaint called a Violation of Probation (VOP) with the court system. A VOP hearing then takes place. If you fail to attend the hearing, the court will most likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest. The penalties the judge can levy against you include:
- Extending the probation period
- Ordering you to taking part in counseling, community service, drug rehab, etc
- Adding new conditions to your probation
- Resentencing you for your original charges and adding prison time
The more serious the violation, the harsher the penalties will be. Minor infractions might only amount to light punishments like community service if you properly argue your case. Major violations can result in serving the maximum amount of your original sentence in jail in addition to having to pay additional fines.
What Are My Legal Rights and Options?
If you have been summoned for a probation hearing, it is important you know what rights you have. Your rights include receiving a written notice of the claims against you, attorney representation, to be heard by a neutral judge, and to have the ability to present evidence and witnesses to support your case. If you have been accused of violating probation it is also imperative that you retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help plead your case. Probation violations are a serious matter. Contact Schneider Freiberger today for experienced legal advice on all matters related to probation violations.