Following the Conditions of Your Probation
Although many criminal convictions could result in jail time, the fact is that most people don’t see a jail or prison. Instead, they are put on probation. Probation is an excellent alternative to jail, but you must be sure to follow all of the conditions a judge imposes on you. If you don’t, you could end behind bars.
What is Probation?
The criminal justice system is focused primarily on punishment, and no punishment is more severe than depriving someone of their freedom. However, states soon realized that keeping people locked up could be counterproductive. People without much criminal history would lose their jobs while locked up, and they would be unable to provide for themselves when they eventually got let out.
As a concession to this fact, Florida will often offer probation to someone whose crime isn’t that serious or who has an otherwise clean criminal history. Probation, however, comes with strings—also called “conditions,” which you must satisfy.
What are Common Conditions?
There are some standard conditions that judges will impose on probationers, such as:
- Visiting your probation officer
- Keeping a clean criminal record while on probation
- Consenting to drug or alcohol testing (or both)
- Consenting to random searches
- Not having a firearm
- Staying within a certain geographical area
- Continuing to work a job
A judge might also impose special conditions based on your particular circumstances. The key with conditions is that you absolutely must abide by them. Probation violations—called VOPs—will result in you getting arrested.
Defending Against a Probation Violation
After getting arrested, you will be held without chance of bail until a hearing. You absolutely should get a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You can be arrested on mere suspicion of a probation violation, so you have a chance to convince a judge that you did not actually commit the violation.
According to the Florida Supreme Court, a violation must be “substantial and willful” for you to lose probation. A substantial violation is material, meaning serious. For example, getting arrested again would be a serious violation of your probation. By contrast, not completing two hours of your community service requirement might not.
A willful violation must involve a choice or decision. For example, choosing not to go to your drug testing is a willful violation. Being sick and in the hospital on the date of the testing is probably not a willful violation.
The law provides some wriggle room for you to provide your side of the story, but you must do so professionally with an experienced lawyer at your side. Too many defendants think they can talk their way out of a probation violation. But the fact is that the judge has already taken it easy on you already—which is why you received probation—and might not be inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt about any violation.
Protect Your Probation—Call Us
At Bundza & Rodriguez, our Daytona Beach criminal defense attorneys can help you protect your probation and stay out of jail. For immediate help, please call us at 386-252-5170. Initial consultations are free.