Recently, a famous Hollywood actress was in the news as having been sentenced to 120 days in the county jail for violating the terms of her probation. In this blog, I will try to touch on some of the issues that people often face when they are on probation as a result of a conviction in a criminal case.
Please note that this blog is meant to give the reader general advice on topics that often come up in criminal law. For an answer to specific questions regarding your criminal case it is best to contact an experienced criminal attorney who will be able to advise you properly. Feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Call 818 325-0570
DEFINITION OF PROBATION
Probation is generally defined as the suspension of the imposition of a sentence by the court. It is coupled with the order of the release of a person convicted of a crime from custody under the terms of probation as the court requires. Additionally, courts may suspend the execution of a state prison sentence and order probation but still sentence a person convicted of a crime to some lesser amount of time in the county jail, up to one year.
This complicated definition is another way of stating that when a person is facing charges in a criminal court, and the court wants to give him or her break, they will give that person probation rather than sending them to jail or prison. That break is coupled with a period of probation where a person is under the watchful eye of the probation department or the court and has to show that they will not commit another crime or violate certain terms of the probation.
The courts may impose a number of terms on a person who is sentenced to probation. Some of the terms may be standard such as obey all laws and attend alcohol counseling while others may be case specific.
The difference between being sentenced to do jail or prison time and being given a grant of probation is often times the types of representation a person has. An experienced criminal attorney will be able to achieve the results you or your loved one needs.
TYPES OF PROBATION
FORMAL FELONY PROBATION
Formal probation is for people who are convicted of felony crimes. It involves checking in with the probation office on a regular basis and is more involved than summary probation. The probation department will closely monitor the person and make sure that all conditions imposed by the criminal court are being followed. In the event a person is not following the terms of the probation, their probation officer will request that the court revoke probation and make a determination if a prison sentence is more appropriate.
Formal probation also requires a person convicted of a crime to pay for the cost of probation services.
Summary probation is a less intrusive form of probation for persons convicted of misdemeanors. A person who is on summary probation will not be required to check in with the probation office. The person is merely told that he is on probation by the court for a length of time that the court requires as is the norm for certain crimes.
The court will usually impose a term of summary probation on a person who is convicted of a misdemeanor crime regardless of any other punishments the court imposes. This is the courts way of monitoring the person to insure that they are not going to commit more crimes in the future and their conviction was a one-time mistake.
This type of probation generally expires without a court hearing or any meeting with the department of probation. The only time a person has any interaction with the criminal authorities is when they violate the terms of their summary probation.
REVOCATION OF PROBATION
The court may revoke a person's probation for a number of reason's but the most common are that person has been arrested for another crime or they have violated the terms of their probation. This may only be done while the person is still on probation. For instance of a person is sentenced to 36 months of probation and on the 37th month commits another crime, that person can be prosecuted for the crime but not for a probation violation.
If however the person is arrested for a crime within the probation period, they will face both a criminal charge and a probation violation before the criminal court. Often times the punishment for probation violation can be just as bad if not worse than the punishment for the crime (as the actress mentioned above has recently learned).
PROBATION REVOCATION HEARING
A person has the right to a hearing in criminal court before their probation is revoked. Additionally a person has a right to have a criminal attorney present at the hearing.
At the probation revocation hearing, the criminal court must have reason to believe a condition of probation was violated or the person committed a subsequent crime which would warrant the criminal court to revoke probation.
The standard of proof for a probation violation is much lower than the standard required to prove a person committed a crime. Rather than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard used by the court to sustain a criminal charge it only need to be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that a crime was committed. This means that if there is more than a 50% chance that the person violated probation, the court will sustain the charge. Many times a court will sustain a probation charge even when there is not enough evidence to convict a person of the subsequent criminal charge.
Probation matters are very complicated and often times an improperly handled probation issue before the criminal court will result in jail time, fines and other sanctions on a person. That is why it is crucial to have an experienced criminal attorney who is familiar with the procedures of probation standing behind you and defending your rights. FOR A FREE CONSULTATION TO YOUR CRIMINAL CASE CALL OUR OFFICE AT 818 325-0570