Jacksonville Probation Violation Lawyer
“Probation violation” may sound minor, but in fact breaking the terms of your probation can have incredibly serious consequences in Florida. A report prepared for the Florida legislature by The Crime and Justice institute a few years ago revealed that 39% of prison admissions in Florida resulted from violations of probation or other supervised releases.
Depending on the circumstances, even a technical violation can have serious consequences. So, if you are on probation or some other form of supervised release, it’s very important to fully understand the terms of release and follow them carefully. If you’ve violated your probation or been accused of a violation, you’ll want to speak with an experienced Jacksonville probation lawyer as soon as possible. The standard applies to a probation revocation case is different from that in a regular criminal case, and the burden of proof for the prosecution is much lower. So, you will want to work with an attorney who has experience with probation violation cases.
Attorney Matthew Lufrano is a Board Certified expert in criminal trial law and has experience with all facets of the criminal defense process. You can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Lufrano Legal, P.A. by calling 904-513-3905 or filling out our quick contact form.
Florida courts have wide discretion to order probation rather than incarceration or to combine probation with a shorter period of incarceration. Currently, the Florida Office of Community Corrections is supervising more than 164,000 probationers statewide. More than 7,000 of those are in the Jacksonville Circuit, which includes Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties.
A Florida probationer is required to follow certain terms of release, and failure to do so can mean incarceration or other penalties. General terms of probation include things such as:
- A requirement that the probationer report regularly to his or her probation officer
- A waiver of certain rights, which, for example, allows the probation officer to enter the probationer’s home without a warrant
- A requirement that the probationer maintain employment, if possible
- A prohibition on breaking the law, which allows the court to revoke probation and sentence the probationer even in the absence of a criminal court conviction
- A requirement that the probationer support any depends to the best of his or her ability
- A requirement that the probationer pay certain debts to the county, municipality or state, dependent on his or her financial situation
- A prohibition on associating with people “engaged in criminal activities”
- Submission to random drug and alcohol testing
The court may also order specific terms of probation, usually related to the nature of the crime. For instance, a probationer may be ordered to:
- Perform community service
- Make restitution to victims
- Not possess a firearm
- Refrain from using intoxicants
- Not associate with gang members or associates
- Enter a residential treatment program
- Attempt to obtain a high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma
- Participate in a work program
- Participate in a batterers’ intervention program
This list is not exhaustive. The court may impose other terms of probation as appropriate.
Florida Probation Violations
The final outcome of a probation violation may be a return to probation with little or no change, a lengthy prison sentence, or something in between. As a starting point, you should be aware that any probation violation can be grounds for arrest. So, for example, missing a meeting with your probation officer may result in arrest.
Probation violations fall into one of two categories: technical violations and new criminal offenses. A technical violation is a violation of the terms of supervision that is not itself a crime. While any probation violation can have serious consequences, the two types of violations are treated somewhat differently under Florida law.
Many probation officers will be reasonable if you’ve made a minor, honest mistake or circumstances were beyond your control. For example, if you sleep through your 8 a.m. meeting with your probation officer but call in at 8:45 and explain what happened, your probation officer may simply reschedule you for later in the day. Or, the probation officer may apply alternative sanctions without reporting the violation to the court. But, you can’t count on that. Even technical violations of probation sometimes lead to incarceration, so it’s critical that you make every effort to follow the rules to the letter.
New Crimes Committed While on Probation
In the case of a new criminal offense, the probation officer does not have the discretion to handle the matter outside of court. And, the accused faces two distinct but related issues in a sometimes confusing process.
A probationer believed to have violated a criminal statute, including a criminal traffic offense, will typically face a proceeding to revoke probation. But, at the same time, the accused may be facing a fresh set of criminal charges based on the same action. While the two cases will sometimes be resolved together–for instance, in a plea agreement that addresses both–the outcome of the probation violation case does not depend on a criminal conviction.
To secure a conviction in a criminal case, the state must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But, in a probation violation hearing, the court applies a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. In simple terms, that means that the court must conclude that, based on the evidence presented, it is more likely than not that the probationer committed the violation.
The lower standard means that even if the criminal charge that triggered the probation revocation effort is dismissed–even if the probationer is acquitted in a criminal court proceeding–the court may still find a probation violation.
What Happens When You Violate Probation?
The possible consequences of a probation violation and the judge’s discretion in imposing consequences depend on a variety of factors, including the underlying crime, the nature of the violation, and whether the probationer has previously violated the terms of release.
- Continuing probation
- Continuing probation with additional conditions
- Shifting from probation to the more restrictive community control
- Imposing a jail sentence of up to 90 days as a term of probation
- Sentencing the probationer for the original crime
The last item is of the greatest concern. Depending on the nature of the original crime, the probationer’s criminal history, and other factors, a simple probation violation could potentially mean years in prison. That’s true whether the probationer was convicted of a crime and placed on probation or had adjudication withheld in anticipation of dismissal if probation was successfully completed.
Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of thinking of a probation violation as a relatively minor matter. That’s especially true if the violation was a technical one, such as changing addresses without notifying the probation officer or missing a meeting. Many also wrongly assume that if they are cleared of new criminal charges, that will automatically resolve the probation violation. There may be more at stake than you realize, and waiting to see what happens when you show up in court is rarely a good strategy.
If you’ve been accused of violating your probation, even if the violation seems insignificant, it’s in your best interest to get advice from a seasoned probation violation attorney right away.
Talk to a Jacksonville Probation Violation Lawyer
Attorney Matthew Lufrano has dedicated more than a decade to helping people who have been charged with crimes and accused of probation violations. He’s a Board Certified Expert in Criminal Trial Law and has extensive experience as a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney.