When someone pleads guilty to a felony and does not receive a prison sentence, he usually receives formal felony probation. This formal probation may range from three to five years. It usually requires monthly reporting to a probation officer, payment of monthly probation fees, payment of fines, periodic reports by the probation office to the judge, random drug testing, random search of one’s home or vehicle and other terms and conditions.
The terms and conditions of probation are clearly stated by the judge in open court at the time of one’s sentencing. It is not uncommon for people who are convicted for the first time of a criminal offense to misunderstand what probation means and what they are supposed to do upon their conviction of a criminal offense. Attorneys who don’t explain the terms of probation to their clients, or agree to impossibly harsh conditions for their clients, are basically setting their own clients up for probation violations.
Regardless of what kind of probation that one is on, you could be in violation of your probation for any of the following reasons:
1. Getting arrested for any new offense, no matter how minor, while on probation.
2. Failure to pay fines or complete community service as ordered by the judge.
3. Failure to report to the probation officer as scheduled and directed.
4. Failure to pay probation fees, fines and restitution as ordered.
5. Failure to submit to a drug test or a search by the police or probation officer.
If the probation officer believes that he or she has violated the terms of his probation, the probation officer will ask that the felony warrant go out for the defendant’s arrest. In almost every county in California, the defendant is then arrested and held in jail on a NO BAIL HOLD STATUS. An alternative may be for a probationer to receive a letter from the probation officer to appear in court. When an appearance is made, the court may order the person to be taken into custody immediately under the same NO BAIL HOLD STATUS.
A “NO BAIL HOLD STATUS” means that the defendant will remain in custody for several weeks while the matter is being investigated. The defendant will not be allowed to post bail while the probation violation matter is pending. In these matters, it is extremely important to retain a skilled defense attorney.
Many people do not realize that to be found guilty of a violation of probation requires that a hearing take place. At this hearing in front of a judge, the District Attorney must present evidence to convince the judge by a “preponderance of evidence” that a probation violation has occurred. This is less evidence than is required to convict someone of a crime. An experienced criminal defense lawyer is a must. The potential consequences are enormous. They could cause serious problems and loss of your liberty or job.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN? If you are found to have violated any terms of probation, the judge has many options. The judge could send you to prison for the balance of your sentence. For example, you may have been put on felony probation for a crime that carries with it a maximum term of three years in prison. Your original sentence might have been felony probation and no jail sentence. A violation of that probation could send you to prison for the balance of three years. As an alternative, the judge could be persuaded to “revoke” your probation and thereafter “reinstate” probation under new terms. This could mean jail time and often an extended period of probation. We have been very successful in convincing the Court on occasion to modify probation and allow our client to be released without any further penalties. In the event that you are found to be in violation of probation, our job is to argue and secure the most minimal punishment possible.
A FELONY PROBATION VIOLATION is a very serious matter that should not be taken lightly. It is extremely important that you seek the help of a highly trained criminal defense attorney. Feel free to contact Charles Mesirow for a free case evaluation. We can make the difference between jail, prison and freedom. Mr. Mesirow is a Board Certified Criminal Specialist with 40 years of experience.
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