Probation is a sanction and form of criminal sentence that is ordered by the Court after someone has been convicted of or found responsible for a crime. While on probation, a person must “keep the peace and be of good behavior” and comply with the conditions imposed by the Court, including reporting to a probation officer.
Circumstances where probation will be ordered
There are two circumstances where probation will be ordered.
The first is where the defendant serves jail time and upon completing the jail sentence he or she is then put on probation for an additional term. Often their term of imprisonment will be shortened because the defendant will be on probation once release.
The second is where a Court orders probation instead of incarceration. If probation is completed successfully, the defendant can avoid spending any time in jail. Once on probation, the defendant will be supervised by a probation officer and required to comply with the terms of his or her period of probation.
These conditions vary on a case-by-case basis, but may include:
- community service,
- restrictions on drug and alcohol use,
- travel restrictions, and more.
Probation conditions may be general or specialized depending upon the circumstances of the case. Some of the general conditions include reporting to your probation officer (PO) on a scheduled basis; remain law abiding; not to travel or relocate outside the State of Rhode Island without advanced approval; and “keep the peace and be of good behavior.”
There are also circumstances where special conditions must be complied with in addition to the general conditions such as substance abuse treatment; urine screens to monitor abstinence from substance use; domestic violence counseling; mental health counseling; payment of restitution; sex offender registration; and more.
Violating probation terms
A defendant may lose his probation sentence if he or she violates the terms. In general, there are two categories of potential probation violations.
The first are “technical” violations, which relate to administrative requirements such as reporting to the probation officer as directed or failing a drug test.
The second are “substantive” violations for committing a new crime while on probation. While technical violations may seem less serious than substantive violations, both can result in serious consequences to a probationer.
A probationer may be subject to a violation at any time during the course of his or her probation and still face the same degree of punishment. For instance, if someone commits a violation on the last day of a probation period, he will face the same amount of jail time as if he violates on the very first day. There is no credit for good time served while on probation.
When a person fails to obey the conditions of probation, the defendant will be brought before the court.
The first step is for the person to be provided with notice of violation, which sets forth the factual basis and supporting evidence for the alleged violation.
Once the defendant appears before the Court and receives notice of the violation, the Court will decide if the defendant should be detained pending adjudication of the alleged violation or released on bail pending the same.
A defendant accused of violating probation may either admit violation with or without an agreement as to the punishment to be imposed, or the defendant may exercise his or her right to a violation hearing.
At a hearing, the State bears the burden of proving by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the defendant did not keep the peace and be of good behavior.
A defendant is entitled to legal counsel at this hearing, the right to cross-examine witnesses and challenge evidence offered by the State, as well as the right to present evidence and witnesses in his defense.
If found to be in violation of probation, the Court can allow the defendant to remain on probation or to revoke the probation and send the defendant to jail for a term up to and including the maximum allowable sentence for the crime for which the defendant was placed on probation.
If the defendant was serving probation along with a suspended sentence, the judge may impose any sentence that is equal to or less than the suspended term.
In addition, if the defendant’s probation violation was the result of the commission of a new crime, the defendant may either face prosecution of the new crime separately or consider resolving the new case contemporaneously with the probation violation.
When a defendant elects to admit violation, he may do to the violation alone, or also to the new offense, thereby resolving his pending legal matters at the same time.
Probation violation hearings can be challenging legal proceedings to navigate successfully because the standard of proof is lower than at a trial and required for a criminal conviction. If you or a family member has been accused of violating the terms of probation, call the Rhode Island Probation Violations Lawyers of the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III, Inc. today at (401) 351-5100 for a free consultation.