Probation is intended to be an opportunity to stay in the community and get your life back on track after being convicted of a crime. But as we’ve often seen, people on probation can get into more trouble.
A probation violation could result in your probation being revoked, meaning you’ll face more stringent consequences for the original crime as well as potential new consequences. Here’s what you need to know.
What constitutes a probation violation in Florida?
Broadly speaking, a violation of probation (VOP) is any failure to live up to the standards of your probation. Some of the most common probation violations are:
- Testing positive for a controlled substance
- Failing to complete a court-ordered treatment or diversion program
- Not meeting certain financial obligations (such as child support)
- Failing to meet with a probation officer as scheduled
- Being arrested for a new crime
It’s easy to see how an arrest while you’re on probation can lead to snowballing legal difficulties. You may be facing a reinstated sentence for your original offense plus new consequences for a new crime. And because of Florida’s laws, it’s potentially quite difficult to contest a probation violation.
What’s the legal standard for probation violations in Florida?
In criminal court, the prosecution is normally required to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high standard of proof because a criminal court has the power to send you to prison and take away your freedom.
However, probation violations have a lower standard of proof, called preponderance of the evidence. That is to say, the prosecution only has to prove that there is at least a 51 percent chance that you violated your probation.
In other words, if you’re arrested for a new crime while on probation, you’re not necessarily out of the woods just because the prosecution can’t prove the new crime beyond a reasonable doubt. You could still face revocation of your probation under the lower standard of proof for the probation violation itself.
Do I need a lawyer for a probation violation?
There are two main reasons it’s important to have legal representation if you’re accused of violating probation. First, because the standard of proof in VOP cases is lower, you really need an experienced attorney who can find every hole in the prosecution’s case. The best possible outcome is if we can show that there is less than a 50 percent chance you violated the terms of your probation.
Second, Florida law gives trial courts a lot of freedom in assigning consequences for probation violations. That means there’s a lot at stake, but it also means we have an opportunity to mitigate those consequences if we can explain the circumstances to the judge.
In short, if you’re facing legal trouble for a probation violation, your best option is to hire an attorney who knows the courts, knows the judges, and knows the law. We will listen to your side of the story and build a legal strategy to help you get the best possible outcome. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation with attorney Mark Sieron.