Following a conviction for a criminal offense in the State of California the court must pronounce sentence on the defendant. Sometimes that sentence is already agreed upon by the parties in the form of a plea agreement. If the sentence has not already been negotiated the judge must determine the sentence. Either way, the sentence imposed may include a term of probation in lieu of, or in addition to, a term of incarceration. If you violate the conditions of your probation you will likely be ordered to appear for a hearing. This may lead you to wonder, “do I need an attorney for a probation violation hearing in California?”
Your probation can be violated in a number of ways. All probationers must abide by the standard conditions of probation, including things such as remaining employed or in in school, reporting to your probation officer as directed, and not committing a new criminal offense. Special conditions of probation must also be followed. These may include conditions such as completion of an alcohol and drug evaluation, completion of community work service, or payment of restitution. If any of the conditions of probation are violated your probation officer usually has the discretion to give you a chance to rectify the problem or submit an official violation to the court. If a violation is sent to the court you will be ordered to appear for a hearing. While you are not require to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney to represent you at the hearing it is in your best interest to do so given what is at stake.
A probation violation hearing is not a formal trial, meaning the rules of evidence do not apply. Moreover, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard does not apply either, meaning you can be found to be in violation with less evidence than what is required to find you guilty at a criminal trial. If you are found to be in violation of your probation the judge has three options:
- Continue with no change – For a very minor violation and/or if an explanation for the violation is offered, the judge may simply admonish you to not violate again and continue your probation without change.
- Modify your probation – The judge could modify the terms of your probation in lieu of the violation. If you tested positive for drugs, for instance, the judge might add a condition that requires you to complete drug rehabilitation while on probation.
- Revoke your probation – Your probation could be revoked or terminated unsuccessfully. Typically, this means you will be ordered to serve all, or a portion of, your original suspended sentence.
A probation violation hearing is not something to take lightly. Your freedom is literally at stake. If you have been notified of a probation violation, or are concerned that you may have violated your probation, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. For a free and confidential consultation, you can call San Diego criminal defense attorney Domenic J. Lombardo today at (619) 232-5122.