Probation is a sentencing alternative wherein individuals convicted of crimes are placed on supervision within their community for a certain amount of time rather than being incarcerated. While on probation, these individuals are assigned a probation officer who will monitor their behavior and ensure they complete the requirements of their probation. Each sentence will be a little different, but individuals on probation are typically required to have regular check-ins with their probation officer, fulfill their family and work obligations, and stay out of trouble. The goal of probation is to rehabilitate and reintegrate individuals convicted of crimes while protecting their community from any further harm. Probation is often looked on favorably because it generally saves taxpayers money from the expense of incarceration.
However, not everyone placed on probation will successfully complete their sentence. According to the Sycamore Institute, approximately 40% of individuals entering Tennessee’s state prisoner population were those who violated their probation, parole, or other community corrections sentences. When an individual is found guilty of violating their probation, they will often be ordered by the court to serve the rest of their sentence, if not the entirety of it, in prison. This means that if you were sentenced to serve a year on probation and completed 11 months of your probation successfully, but were found in violation before you could complete that last month, you may be facing up to a year in prison. There are also other punishments that courts may impose for probation violations, such as restarting the term of probation or imposing more restrictions during the probationary period. With these factors in mind, let’s look at some of the common ways individuals violate the terms of their probation. This knowledge will hopefully help you fulfill your court-ordered requirements and make it through probation successfully.
Failing a Drug Test
Many, if not most, probation sentences require individuals that have been convicted to steer clear of all illegal drugs – and at times, even alcohol. This will be enforced by the imposition of random drug screenings, or if necessary, a transdermal alcohol monitor. If you’re required to submit to drug screening and the test flags positive for an illicit substance, you will be found in violation of your probation.
Failing to Complete Community Service or Counseling
Courts often order individuals convicted of crimes to complete community service and/or counseling as a form of rehabilitation. For example, if you were convicted of a crime as a result of addiction, the court will likely order you to complete addiction counseling. You will need to see this counseling through and submit proof of completion either to your probation officer or the court, otherwise you may be charged for violating your probation. If you’re unsure about the window of time you have to complete your counseling or community service, call your probation officer or the clerk of the court you were sentenced in. Often, individuals have until the end of their sentence to meet these requirements, but you may have to do so sooner.
Violating Residency Requirements
A considerable number of people violate the residency requirements of their probation without even realizing it. Courts will often impose geographic limitations on probationers and parolees so that their supervising officer can keep an eye on them. Typically, this means residing within the county you were convicted in, and remaining within a certain range of that county. If you need to travel for work or personal reasons, you’ll need to request written permission from your probation officer. Furthermore, if you end up needing to move, you may have to go back to court to have your probation order amended.
Failing to Pay Court-ordered Fees and Fines
At the end of a court case, the court will often impose fines as part of a sentence and fees to cover court costs. If an individual fails to pay these, they will be in violation of their probation. Make sure to pay your fees and fines directly to the court, unless otherwise ordered. You may also be ordered to pay restitution, in which case the court should inform you where to submit payment. If you will not be able to pay the full amount in time, you may be able to pay in installments. Again, talk to your probation officer and the court clerk to work out a payment plan.
Catching New Charges
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth stating: if you’re arrested again, you will probably be found in violation of your probation. New arrests are often taken as a sign that a probationer is not rehabilitating while on probation and may result in them being sent to jail. However, you may be able to avoid this if you’re able to have the new charge dismissed.
Not Keeping Current on Child Support
Yes, a judge can order you to stay current on child support payments as a condition of your probation. This is typically referred to as a duty to fulfill “family responsibilities.” If you fail to make child support payments in time, you may be found in violation of your probation. Of course, going to prison doesn’t make it any easier to pay off your child support debts.
Possessing a Firearm
Finally, you may be ordered not to possess a firearm or other weapons while you complete your probation. This is a requirement typically imposed on those convicted of violent crimes, such as domestic assault. If a probation officer observes a firearm in their probationer’s home or on their person, they have the authority to remove the weapon and charge said probationer with violating the terms of their sentence. Just because you’ve been placed on probation does not mean you have to sell all your guns, though. You can arrange for them to be transferred to a trusted friend or relative, or to temporarily be in the custody of your probation officer. Once you’ve successfully completed your probation, you should be able to regain access to your firearms.
These are just a few of the most common ways individuals violate probation. If you’ve committed or been accused of committing a probation violation, it is critical to hire a criminal defense attorney that can help you fight against being incarcerated. Best & Brock is your best option for a criminal defense strategy that will protect your rights and your future.