Probation is generally preferable to spending time behind bars, but it’s also not the easy way out. There are many terms and conditions you’ll have to meet, and failure to do so can land you behind bars for the rest of your sentence.
If you’re placed under probation in North Carolina, it’s very important to understand the type of probation you’re under and to know all of the rules you’ll need to follow.
Importantly, not being aware of a probation condition isn’t a defense for a violation. It’s your responsibility to know and follow all of the rules, many of which are more demanding than you might think.
A probation violation can cost you your freedom, or extend your probation term. To help our clients on probation avoid violations, we’ve put together a guide covering the types of probation in North Carolina, the rules you’ll need to follow while on probation, and the potential consequences if you violate them.
Supervised Versus Unsupervised
The first thing to understand about your probation is what type you’re under. You’ll be able to find this in your paperwork and can also ask your attorney or probation officer if you are unsure. In North Carolina, there are two types of probation: supervised and unsupervised.
When you’re assigned a probation officer and expected to report to him or her for the duration of your probation, you are under “supervised” probation. The frequency and terms of meetings with your probation officer generally depend on the seriousness of the offense. Missing a visit can land you in court, possibly facing additional criminal consequences.
In certain circumstances, a judge may grant unsupervised probation – meaning no probation officer is assigned to your case. Typically this is only an option for those limited to serving some type of community punishment or when someone previously on supervised probation has been able to transfer to an unsupervised status due to compliance.
Although you’re less likely to be caught for probation violations, legal trouble can be more extensive if you are.
Common Probation Terms and Rules in North Carolina
Typically, the terms of your probation will depend on the type of offense in question, and other specifics of your case. For example, if you’re on probation for a drug crime, you’ll most likely be required to submit to drug testing during your probation.
Similarly, if you’re on probation for a gang-related crime, you may be required to avoid specific people or group members during probation.
Common terms of probation include:
- Meeting regularly with your probation officer at set times
- Appearing at all scheduled court appearances in a timely manner
- Paying for fines, treatment program fees, and restitution to victims
- Avoiding certain people, groups, or places
- Not traveling out of state without the prior permission of your probation officer – generally, you’ll want to make your PO aware of your travel plans as soon as possible, and at a minimum within a few weeks of your travel date.
- Obeying all laws, including minor laws such as jaywalking
- Refrain from possessing or using illegal drugs and excessive consumption of alcohol, or in some cases any consumption 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
Because the terms of probation are set on a case by case basis, it’s very important that you fully understand the terms of your probation.
Ever heard the saying that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission? This does not apply to probation.
North Carolina Probation Violations
If you’re caught violating probation, your probation officer has a significant amount of discretion in what happens next. You may be issued a warning or required to attend a probation violation hearing.
The decision may depend on factors such as the nature of the violation, severity of the original criminal offense, history of prior violations, or simply the preferences of your probation officer.
During a probation violation hearing, a judge will determine whether you violated your probation. If the judge determines that you did violate your terms, your probation may be extended, or additional hefty fines, jail time, and other consequences may be applied.
Probation Revocation in North Carolina
In some cases, your probation may be revoked. This does not automatically mean that you’ll be sent to jail. A judge has many options available during sentencing for a probation revocation.
For example, the judge may impose a lengthier probation, impose fines, or require you to attend a treatment program. The judge may also order you to spend a brief time in jail or to serve the original term of your sentence in jail.
If you’re accused of a probation violation, it’s best to involve a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help protect your freedom and avoid lengthy probation extensions and costly fines.