An aspect of society that few people ever think about unless you’ve been personally affected, coronavirus has been a bit of a gamechanger for those on probation.
While North Carolina probation hearings are continuing, as usual, there are functions of probation that have proven challenging to maintain, and these issues are making it difficult to keep up specific requirements of their probation terms.
How do you maintain gainful employment if your employer is temporarily closed? What if you’re enrolled in school or a treatment program, but the pandemic has shut the institution down?
With uncertainties looming, and a marked lack of clarity, many probationers are left wondering what they can do to avoid probation violations. We want to share a few scenarios that have surfaced recently, and our advice to help you stay in compliance.
First, the basics.
Common Terms of Probation in North Carolina
Probation terms vary by individual and usually depend on the specific circumstances of their criminal charges, conviction, and sentencing.
For example, drug offenders may be required to submit to regular drug testing. On the other hand, a person charged with assault may have to attend an anger management course.
Some of the more common probation requirements include:
- Meeting regularly with the probation officer
- Appearing at all scheduled court appearances
- Paying for fines, treatment program fees, and restitution to victims
- Avoiding certain people, groups, and places
- Not traveling out of state without the prior permission from a probation officer
- Obeying all laws, including minor laws such as jaywalking
- Refraining from possession or using of illegal drugs and excessive consumption of alcohol (sometimes complete avoidance of alcohol)
- Submitting to drug or alcohol testing on a regular or random basis
- In some cases, house arrest and electronic monitoring
- Refrain from possessing firearms
- Maintain gainful employment or enrollment in school
Some of these can be easily be maintained during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Due to shelter-in-place ordres, those under house arrest are probably having an easy time complying with their probation terms right now, for instance.
However, there are other terms that aren’t so easy to follow right now. One part of those rules that has people concerned? Maintaining gainful employment or enrollment in school. With schools around the state closed until further notice, this is potentially impossible.
So what are probationers supposed to do?
Avoiding North Carolina Probation Violations
First things first, the most important thing for you to do if you are on probation in North Carolina is to stay in touch with your probation officer. Keeping them up-to-date on your situation can go a long way in showing compliance.
When you stay in touch with your officer, you are at least demonstrating an attempt to comply with the laws as best you can. You’ll also be able to get updates on the legal end of things and further strengthen your relationship.
It’s also essential that you are doing your best to follow the law. Even though it may seem like you can get away with minor violations such as speeding or drug use, this can have severe consequences. You are still required to abide by all terms of your probation.
If you are caught violating those terms, you may be required to go to jail for probation violations. With the court systems in a state of confusion, it may also take longer than usual to process your case. This could result in further exposure to the virus, and delays in securing your freedom again.
It may also be wise to seek proper legal representation if you are detained for a probation violation. An experienced attorney can provide you with an adequate defense against the charges given the current situation.
North Carolina Penalties for Probation Violations
The penalties for probation violations will depend on the circumstances surrounding the violation and other factors. For example, if it can be proven that you are a danger to the community, you may be required to be held in jail until your probation violation hearing.
Usually, probation violations will involve a hearing to determine the guilt of the individual in the violation. At this point, you will be allowed to defend yourself against the violation charges. If found guilty of probation violations, there are several possible consequences.
Penalties for probation violations include:
- Revocation of probation
- Confinement for up to 90 days in jail
- Extension of probation
- Modification of terms of probation
- Continuation of current probation terms
Right now is not the time to be messing around with probation violations. Even with all of the uncertainties surrounding the current situation, do what you can to ensure you are following the terms of your probation.
Make sure to stay in touch regularly with your probation officer and keep yourself up to date on changes to probation procedures. The last thing you want is to violate your probation and potentially be confined in jail during the current viral outbreak.