If you faced criminal charges and either entered a plea or were found guilty at trial, the judge may have sentenced you to supervised probation. Likely there were some terms and conditions to complete during this probationary period.
Supervised probation can be tricky for many people–if you miss payments, fail to complete classes, use disallowed substances, skip appointments, or make contact with certain people, you may be facing a Violation of Probation (VOP.) This might mean jail time.
Here are some things to expect if you are currently on probation, or if you are already facing a Violation of Probation.
Technical Violations: A Technical violation happens when a condition or conditions of probation aren’t met. The defendant failed to complete something the judge required.
Some examples of technical violations are missed payments, too few community service hours, forgetting the letter of apology or missing appointments with their probation officer.
While still a violation, the best way to lessen a sentence for your VOP is to complete these missed conditions before going to the sentencing hearing.
New Law Violations: These violations are new arrests for criminal charges that are committed while the defendant is on probation.
Bond: Defendants charged with a VOP are NOT entitled to bond. The judge may grant bond at their discretion, but usually, VOPs are set at no bond until the defense attorney files a bond motion.
Judges are more likely to set a bond if the violations are technical (missed payments) rather than coming from a new arrest. If you are on probation for a sexually motivated offense or a violent felony offense, you may be ineligible for bond under Florida’s Anti-Murder Act.
Hearings: Instead of going to trial, you have the right to a hearing. Defendants have less protection at these hearings than at trial, and some of the laws and standards are very different.
Tolling of Probation: When a VOP affidavit is filed, your probation is immediately paused. Even if your VOP case takes over a year to resolve, if you had 6 months of probation left on the day the VOP charge was filed, you will have 6 months of probation left on the day the case is resolved.
If you are charged with a VOP, you CAN be forced to testify against yourself for technical violations.
Hearsay is admissible in VOP hearings.
Judges determine guilt, you do not have a right to a jury at hearings
A Preponderance of the Evidence: Prosecutors do not need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a violation of probation. They must only prove preponderance–that you are “more likely than not” guilty of violating probation.The violations must be substantial and willful
If you are found in violation of probation, the judge has a few options.
- Reinstate (put back on) probation
- Modify probation: the judge can lengthen probation or add more conditions
- Revoke Probation: The judge can end probation and sentence you to up to the maximum amount of jail/prison time.