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Probation is an alternative to incarceration and is often the best possible outcome in a case. Unfortunately, the probation system is complicated and can often impose onerous and unreasonable burdens on people who are struggling to get their lives back on the right track. Even minor, unintentional violations can result in serious consequences.
If you’ve been cited with a probation violation, don’t make a bad situation worse by assuming that it will work itself out. The best thing you can do is to speak with an experienced probation violation lawyer. New Jersey criminal defense attorney has the knowledge and the experience you need to help you get a fair result. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation, call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or send us an email to discuss your case today.
The Basics of Probation
In New Jersey, a judge can sentence you to probation for up to five years. In some cases, it may be in lieu of going to jail, but it can also be imposed for a period of time following your release.
Probation is essentially court-ordered supervision. You will be required to comply with a series of rules (often referred to as “conditions”) and meet regularly with a probation officer. Unsurprisingly, you will also be ordered to not commit any additional crimes while on probation.
Judges can get quite creative in setting the rules for your probation, but here are some common conditions that are imposed by the courts:
- Community service
- Payment of fines, court costs, or restitution to the victim
- Completion of a drug or alcohol treatment program, or regular attendance at meetings
- Curfews or home detention
- Electronic monitoring
- Regular submission to drug and alcohol tests
- Maintaining steady employment
- Avoiding people engaged in criminal activity
- Prohibited from owning any weapons
The terms of probation can be somewhat onerous. Generally speaking, your probation will be more or less restrictive depending on the nature of your offense, the circumstances of the crime, and your criminal history.
Common Probation Violations
Failing to meet the conditions of your probation will be considered a violation, and violating your probation is often much easier than you might think. Even unintentional violations can jeopardize your probation. Here are some of the most common ways that you can find yourself in violation of your probation:
- Missing meetings with your probation officer
- Failing a drug test
- Losing your job
- Missing drug or alcohol treatment meetings
- Failing to pay court fines
- Getting arrested
- Leaving the state
- Failing to complete community service
The best way to avoid violating your probation is to keep in constant contact with your probation officer. Review the conditions of your probation with them in detail, and contact them with any subsequent questions. Be proactive with your probation – it’s much harder to undo a violation after the fact.
Another way to avoid probation violations is to surround yourself with a support network. Your support network should be composed of people who can give you a ride to work or mandatory meetings, help you find a job, and otherwise encourage you to meet all of the requirements of your probation.
Conversely, you should avoid people, places, and situations who may jeopardize your probation. Avoid staying out late at night, stay out of bars, and limit your association with people who have substance abuse problems or are engaged in criminal activity.
What Happens When You Violate the Terms of Your Probation
Minor violations of your probation, such as arriving late to a meeting with your probation officer, will result in a probation violation. If you commit a more serious violation, such as getting arrested, your probation officer with file a Violation of Probation (often referred to as a “VOP”) complaint with the court that oversees your probation.
Upon receipt of the Violation of Probation complaint, the court will schedule a hearing regarding your violation. You will be given notice of the date, time, and location of the hearing so that you can attend. If you do not attend the hearing, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest.
Failing to attend the hearing will most certainly jeopardize your probation, so you want to make every effort to attend, even if you’re sick or it may be difficult to get time off of work. If you have a conflict that you can’t resolve, contact your probation officer in order to discuss the possibility of having the hearing rescheduled.
At the hearing, the judge will review the Violation of Probation complaint and invite your probation officer to add any additional details. The judge will then invite you to speak and listen to your explanation of the violation. If the judge determines that there was no violation, you will then be free to go and continue on with your probation.
Possible Penalties of a Probation Violation
If, on the other hand, the judge finds that you did commit a violation, you are facing the following possible outcomes:
- The judge may extend the time period of your probation.
- The judge may add additional conditions to your probation. It’s likely that these new conditions will be more restrictive than the ones that were previously in place.
- The judge can revoke your probation and send you to jail. This could include a period of time as part of a plea agreement, or the judge could resentence you for the crime. It is likely that you will be resentenced if your violation was the result of committing a subsequent crime.
The penalty imposed by the court will vary according to the severity and circumstances of your violation and whether you have previous violations.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a New Jersey Probation Violation Lawyer
Probation officers and judges have handled hundreds, if not thousands, of probation violation cases during their careers. They will tell you they’ve “heard every excuse in the book” as justification for treating you like every other case they’ve handled.
At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we know that your case is unique and deserves special attention. We know how to persuade the court that you don’t deserve the harshest penalty so that you can get a fair result and get back to rebuilding your life. Don’t leave your future in someone else’s hands – call us today at 215-712-1212 or contact us online in order to schedule a free consultation.