VIOLATION OF PROBATION CHARGES IN TAMPA AND A DEFENDANT’S RIGHTS
Jail terms and fines are only several of the penalties that Florida judges may impose when they sentence convicted criminal offenders. Some convicted offenders are not placed in jail or prison but are instead sent back to their homes and communities to serve time on probation.
In the Florida justice system, probation stresses a convicted criminal offender’s personal accountability while providing a workable alternative to jail or prison. Probationers in Florida must:
- meet regularly with a probation officer
- follow strictly that probation officer’s instructions
- request permission for any out-of-jurisdiction travel
- inform the probation officer of any address change or employment change
Under Florida law, probation may be violated in one of two ways: by violating the terms and conditions spelled out by the probation agreement, or by committing another crime while on probation.
WHAT ARE FLORIDA’S BASIC TERMS OF PROBATION?
The terms and conditions of probation differ for each probationer but typically include refraining from alcohol and drugs, agreeing to random alcohol and drug testing, finding and holding a job, avoiding criminal friends and acquaintances, and meeting regularly with a probation officer.
Common violations of probation include making late fee payments and failing to keep appointments with probation officers. By staying in touch and knowing the deadlines, most probationers are able to avoid a violation of probation.
Some probationers may be sentenced to house arrest or ordered to wear a monitoring device. If drugs or alcohol were involved in the original underlying crime, the terms of probation may require treatment and/or counseling for drug or alcohol dependency issues.
HOW ARE PROBATION VIOLATIONS HANDLED IN FLORIDA?
Any violation of probation (VOP) may be penalized with the revocation of probation and a jail or prison term for the duration of the offender’s sentence. When a probation officer learns about a potential violation of probation, he or she may submit an Affidavit of Violation to the court.
Upon reviewing the affidavit, a judge may issue a bench warrant to have the individual arrested on a VOP charge. To win a conviction in a VOP prosecution, the state must prove the defendant knew and understood the terms of probation but intentionally and willfully violated those terms.
PROBATIONERS LOSE MANY OF THEIR RIGHTS
Because probationers have already been convicted of a crime, in a violation of probation hearing, they no longer have many of the rights that other criminal defendants have. They have no right to a bond or a trial by jury.
Hearsay is admissible in a VOP hearing, and the state does not have to establish the probationer’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The right to legal counsel is one of the few rights that probationers retain in violation of probation cases.
At a VOP hearing, a Tampa violation of probation attorney can offer the probationer’s defense and explain why he or she should not be convicted of violating probation – and should not be returned or sent to jail or prison.
ARE FELONY AND MISDEMEANOR PROBATION DIFFERENT?
In Florida, felony probation usually lasts for three to five years. Misdemeanor probation is typically six months to one year. An offender can seek a reduced sentence after about half of that time, and the request may be granted if all of the conditions have been met with no violations.
If you are convicted of a crime and placed on probation, use the opportunity to move positively and constructively into the future.
For defendants in criminal cases, probation is a better outcome than prison, but if you are charged with a crime that you did not commit, fight the charge. If the case goes to trial, ask the jury to return a not guilty verdict. That is your right.
ABOUT ATTORNEY PATRICK B. COURTNEY
The right Tampa criminal defense attorney may be able to have a criminal charge against you reduced or entirely dismissed. If your case goes to trial, a good defense attorney will be needed to protect your legal rights and to present your side of the case.
If you are charged with a violation of probation, jail or prison is a real possibility. You’ve already been convicted of one crime, and if you are convicted for a violation of probation, the judge may decide that you’ve been shown enough leniency.
Criminal defense lawyer Patrick B. Courtney has over 24 years of legal experience. He was a prosecutor before he became a defense attorney, so he knows how VOP cases are prosecuted. He protects his clients’ rights and brings every case to its best possible resolution.
Pat Courtney is a Tampa violation of probation attorney who represents clients in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, Polk, and Sarasota counties. Call his offices at (813) 967-2000 to learn more, or completing the brief contact form on this website.