A probation violation hearing is a critical court proceeding. The judge will review the evidence and rule on whether you violated the terms and conditions of your probation. The judge could sentence you to the maximum penalty allowed by law if you lose this hearing. That means you could end up in jail or prison, even if you are on probation for your first criminal offense.
In Central Florida and beyond, the experienced and skilled criminal defense lawyers from Moses and Rooth are ready to defend your rights at your probation hearing. With over 30 years of combined legal experience, we have the knowledge and skills to give you the best chance to avoid incarceration. Call us right now to schedule an appointment.
What to Expect at a Probation Violation Hearing
Probation is conditional freedom the judge grants you as an alternative to incarceration after you were found guilty or take a plea to resolve your criminal case. On probation, you agree to keep the peace, refrain from committing any new criminal violations, and fulfill other conditions the judge imposes—like completing counseling, community service hours, or remaining alcohol and drug-free. The court may also order you not to possess firearms or ammunition.
The court could include other orders as part of your probation. These conditions are typically related to the underlying offense. For example, a DUI probation usually includes an alcohol awareness program. Similarly, domestic violence probation usually includes participation in a program designed to help you manage your anger or learn about the horrors of domestic abuse.
There’s a lot you need to live up to while you are on probation. You might feel like probation is too hard. However, keep in mind that the alternative is incarceration—which most people agree is much worse.
What Rights Do You Have at a Probation Violation Hearing?
Florida Statutes § 948.06 sets forth the rules of probation violation hearings. The laws of probation violation hearings are more relaxed than those that govern trials, but you still maintain certain rights.
You can either represent yourself or have a lawyer represent you at your hearing. Representing yourself could be incredibly dangerous. Instead of trying to rush through the process by just agreeing to the alleged probation violations and hoping the judge doesn’t send you to jail, ask an experienced attorney to examine your case thoroughly. Your attorney might have defenses or options that you can pursue to avoid going to jail or prison for your probation violation. However, you will never know if you do not seek advice from a skilled attorney.
At your probation violation hearing, you also have the right to see the evidence the probation officer will use against you. You have the right to cross-examine witnesses and call witnesses in your defense.
The court can hold you in jail without bail pending the final violation hearing, or the judge can release you from jail. In deciding to release you, the judge must consider whether you will likely go to prison for violating your probation.
Types of Violations
Florida law recognizes two types of probation violations.
One is a technical violation. A technical violation is an allegation that you failed to comply with one of the terms of probation. This type of violation can consist of your failure to report to your probation officer as scheduled, failure to complete your community service hours, failure to complete anger management on time, or having a positive urine screen for drugs.
Violating Probation by Committing a New Crime
Picking up a new criminal charge while on probation also triggers a probation violation hearing. Any criminal charge, even the most insignificant, like driving without a license, is a violation of your probation.
Your freedom is in jeopardy, no matter the underlying cause of the violation hearing. You need a strong and aggressive defense lawyer to fight for you.
What Happens at a Hearing on Probation Violation?
What happens at a probation violation hearing? The process actually starts when your probation officer files an affidavit that describes the alleged violations. Next, the court could issue a warrant for your arrest or issue a summons and notice to appear.
Once in court, the judge will advise you of your rights. You could admit to the violation or contest the violation and have a full hearing. If you admit the violation, the judge will sentence you as per the possible penalties discussed below. If you contest the violation, you can present evidence by calling witnesses, testifying yourself, or presenting tangible evidence—such as proof that you completed your community service or treatment classes. But a jury trial and a VOP hearing are different in several ways.
- You have no right to a jury trial.
- Hearsay is admissible.
- You can be forced to testify.
- The only witness the State is likely to present is your probation officer, and often, their word is enough.
However, if you were violated because the police charged you with a new crime, you will not be able to have a jury or bench trial on the new crime at your VOP hearing. In other words, you will not have the opportunity to prove you are innocent of the new crime at your VOP hearing and you will likely be at the judge’s mercy. This is another scenario where having a skilled lawyer can assist you greatly by persuading the judge not to dole out the highest possible penalties.
What Is the Punishment for Violating Probation?
Again, the answer depends on the nature of the violation. The law allows the judge to reinstate, revoke, modify, terminate, or extend your probation. The best case scenario is usually when the judge reinstates your probation. The worst-case scenario is if the judge revokes your probation and sentences you to the maximum sentence allowed by law for the original offense—which is usually incarceration.
Having the right lawyer for your probation violation hearing can greatly influence your case’s outcome. A skilled and savvy attorney understands what to argue to get you the best result possible.
Why Moses and Rooth Are the Right Lawyers for Your Probation Violation
Call us today at 407-377-0150 to schedule a free consultation. We have over 30 years of experience fighting for justice in Florida courts. We will defend your rights every step of the way, even if we did not represent you in the original case. Our commitment to seeking justice for every client is unwavering, and we look forward to putting our experience to work for you.