Probation, also known as community supervision in Texas, consists of two different types.
(1) “Regular” probation (sometimes called “straight” probation) is when the judge finds a person guilty of the offense, sets a jail/prison sentence, but then suspends that jail/prison sentence and places them on probation. If they complete that probation successfully, they never serve the jail/prison sentence but the conviction remains.
(2) Deferred adjudication probation is when the judge finds that there’s enough evidence to find a person guilty but defers adjudicating them guilty and places them on probation. If they successfully complete the probation they not only serve jail/prison time but also avoid the conviction. Many successfully completed deferred probations are eligible for nondisclosure (sealing the record).
If you or someone you know has violated their probation, below you’ll find everything you need to know to understand the process, some basic terms, what you might be up against, and how to find the right lawyer for you.
Let’s start by breaking down some of the terms.
TYPES OF PROBATION VIOLATIONS:
Probation violations can either be technical or substantive.
A technical violation is generally a failure to follow the conditions of probation to the exact letter (not completing a class or program within the allotted time, being behind on fees or fines, or even using illegal drugs while on probation.
A substantive violation generally involves allegedly committing a new criminal offense while on probation.
It is important to know that you do not have a right to a jury trial for a probation violation.
However, you do have a right to a contested hearing. This requires the prosecutor to prove that you violated probation. The standard of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard of proof is much lower than beyond a reasonable doubt.
Allegations that you’ve violated the terms & conditions of your probation can lead to very serious consequences.
PENALTIES FOR PROBATION VIOLATIONS:
If you are on “regular” probation, then the maximum jail or prison sentence you can get if revoked is capped by the original sentence.
For example, if you were sentenced to 5 years in prison probated for 3 years on a second-degree felony, the maximum length of time you can be imprisoned for a probation violation is the original 5-year sentence).
However, if you are on deferred probation there is no cap to a probation violation sentence. Consequently, you can be sentenced to anything within the entire punishment range for your offense.
For example, if instead of being sentenced to 5 years in prison probated for 3 years on a second-degree felony, you were sentenced to 3 years deferred probation, the maximum time you could be imprisoned for a probation violation is 20 years (the maximum punishment for a second-degree felony).
Now, although this may be a nerve-wracking time for anyone going through this…we believe that the more familiar and transparent we are with the process, the more educated our clients can be about what could happen.
LET’S REVIEW THE PROCESS:
- Before the court is aware of an alleged violation, your probation officer first must notify the court.
*This is often referred to as “sending your file to the court.” If addressed early, sometimes a skilled Dallas probation violation lawyer can nip an alleged violation in the bud before it gets in front of the judge.
2. Once the file is sent to the court it is reviewed by the probation officer(s) assigned to the court.
3. If they deem the violation serious enough, they will draft a motion asking the court to revoke your probation.
*In deferred probation, this motion is called a motion to proceed with adjudication of guilt. The motion is called a motion to revoke in straight probation.
So besides a lawyer, who is involved in the case?
DIFFERENT PLAYERS INVOLVED:
Handling probation violation allegations involves multiple players.
- Supervising probation officer
- Court probation officer(s)
- Your Lawyer
This is one of the main reasons why having an experienced lawyer in your area could make all the difference.
Dallas probation lawyer Mike Howard maintains good working relationships with all players in order to give you the best chance of avoiding a revocation hearing and staying on probation. Often these matters can be resolved so you avoid a hearing altogether.
When a hearing is necessary, however, Dallas probation lawyer Mike Howard has the experience and courtroom skills to effectively fight for you.
If you’re not in the Dallas area, we understand that searching for probation violation lawyers can be overwhelming.
After all, you are choosing someone who will hold your life, your future, and your family’s future in their hands. You have to be comfortable with them and feel that you can trust the information and advice they give you. Lawyers are supposed to always work in their clients’ best interest. That shouldn’t just be meaningless talk.
OUR TIPS FOR FINDING THE RIGHT LAWYER FOR YOUR PROBATION VIOLATION:
- Talk to several lawyers to get a feel for them and their staff. Do they take the time necessary to get to know you, to listen to what’s important to you, and answer your questions?
- Do they show you that you matter to them as a person and not just as a fee?
- Beware of lawyers who put the hard sell on you, or who make big promises. No lawyer should ever make a guarantee about a case.
- Avoid a lawyer who doesn’t communicate the scope of the work and their fee clearly in a written contract.
Prosecutors, probation officers, and judges take probation violation cases very seriously. A probation violation allegation can result in revocation, conviction, jail time, and a permanent criminal record. If you or your loved one is facing a probation violation allegation in Dallas, you need an experienced probation violation lawyer. Dallas probation violation attorney Mike Howard will fight for you and help you understand the case against you, your options, and the possible outcomes.
Schedule a FREE consultation with us today, we’re here to help.