If you were convicted of a criminal offense and given probation, you probably consider yourself lucky. Probation means that the penalties you could have received for your crime (jail time, fines) are currently suspended in the hopes that you will complete your probation with no violations.
Unfortunately, many individuals on probation can end up feeling like they are jumping through hoops in order to avoid violating their terms. Probation violations can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Failing to pay court fees or fines
- Failing a drug or alcohol test
- Failure to appear in court
- Failure to meet with your probation officer
- Failure to complete counseling, community service, etc.
- Unlawfully owning or buying a weapon
- Associating with known felons
If you are caught violating your probation, there is a risk that your suspended punishment will be lifted and you will be sent to jail, even for something simple like failing to meet with your probation officer. However, if you have been recently charged with a violation, don’t stress just yet. You have some time before a judge makes a decision about incarceration.
What exactly happens if you are charged with a probation violation?
Probation Court Comes First
You will not be immediately thrown back into jail if you are accused or charged with a probation violation. There is a court process just as there was for your criminal charge, though this one takes place in probation court and there are certain different rules and requirements.
During this process, a judge or prosecutor has the ability to dismiss probation violation charges, and your attorney can help you get those charges dismissed – just like they would in any criminal case.
One of the more obvious ways you can violate your probation (unless the initial crime is a class 3 misdemeanor) is to commit a new criminal offense. The terms of your probation may include wearing an ankle monitor. If you are caught with controlled substances or committing any other type of crime, these monitors help law enforcement track you down and identify you.
If you are charged with a crime while on probation, you will still face typical criminal proceedings in a trial court, but you have to go to a hearing in probation court first. There are a few different outcomes that you could face regarding the criminal offense itself, and how it might affect your probation. These outcomes include:
- Conviction for the crime and violation of probation: As mentioned above, when someone is put on probation, they are doing so on a suspended punishment for their crime. If all of the terms of probation are met, the punishment is taken away from the individual. If someone commits a crime and violates their probation, the probation court must ask whether or not the suspended punishment should be lifted. This suspended punishment usually involves jail time and a sentence that as already determined at the final ruling for the previous offense.
- Conviction for the crime but no violation of probation: What if the crime was committed before you were put on probation? Or there was trouble submitting the proper paperwork on time? The consequences in this case, and how they fit in with your probation, will be arranged in a trial court.
- Violation of Probation, Acquittal in Trial Court: Each judge is given independent discretion when ruling over a case. Since probation court and trial court involve two separate judges, they may disagree on the same case. This is allowed under North Carolina law. After all, probation court requires a different amount of evidence than criminal court.
- No Violation, Trial Court: Probation court requires less evidence than trial courts, so it would make sense that if you are not found guilty in probation court, you would not have to go through trial court. Unfortunately, this is not guaranteed under the law. You may still have to go through criminal proceedings, even if probation court rules that you did not commit a crime.
Enlist the Help of a Probation Violation Lawyer
Just like trial court, you can enlist the help of a probation violations lawyer who will work to get your charges dismissed in probation court. There are a number of potential defense strategies available for probation violation hearings. Your lawyer can help you choose the appropriate strategies and use them in court. This goes for any type of probation violation charge. If you are charged with a criminal offense, your lawyer can represent you in both courts.
Want to speak to a North Carolina probation violations lawyer about your alleged violation? Give us a call today.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense. He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.