probation-violationEach year, thousands of individuals are sentenced to probation after they are convicted of an offense in criminal court. While this type of sentence is far less severe than many other penalties, if you do not abide by its terms, you could face further consequences. As a result, if you are suspected of breaking one or more of these guidelines, your fate could be determined by a judge during a probation violation hearing.

So exactly what constitutes a probation violation? It all depends on the terms of your probation. In most cases, you will be given a few basic ground rules—such as agreeing to abide by the laws in your area, avoiding any contact with criminals, and meeting with your assigned probation officer on a regular basis. If you do not follow these requirements, you can expect to be charged with a violation.

In addition to all those basic guidelines, the judge may impose numerous other restrictions based on your offense. For example, if you were convicted of drug possession, your probation sentence may require routine drug testing. You may also be required to perform community service, attend a court-ordered education program, pay fines, or receive counseling as part of the terms of your probation. Once again, failing to complete any of these requirements is considered a violation of your probation.

Your probation officer has complete discretion when it comes to determining whether a violation warrants a hearing. If you have a good track record and are charged with a minor violation, you may only receive a warning. However, if your probation officer feels it is warranted, he or she will request a formal hearing.

If a hearing is scheduled, a judge will evaluate the evidence against you to determine whether you did in fact violate your probation terms. If you are found guilty, your probation officer will then recommend the type of punishment you should receive. More often than not, the judge will accept these recommendations and, depending on the severity of your violation, impose new probation guidelines, extend the length of your sentence, or revoke your probation entirely and sentence you to jail.

With such severe penalties, it is in your best interest to have legal representation for your probation violation hearing. An experienced criminal attorney may be able to negotiate your sentence with the probation officer. In some cases, he or she may even be able to create reasonable doubt that you committed the violation—which often leads the court to dismiss your charges completely.

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