A sentence of probation is meant to be an alternative to imprisonment and other more serious penalties. People who are put on probation agree to abide by certain rules for a certain length of time, and all while they are under the supervision of a probation officer or other court official.
However, when someone is accused of failing to follow those court-ordered guidelines, they may have to defend themselves in court again - and at greater potential risk. If you find yourself in this situation, you will want to know how to properly defend yourself. What happens if you're accused of violating your probation? Here's what you should do.
What is Probation Violation?
When someone does not follow the rules that the court has set out for them as part of their probation sentence, they may be charged with what is called a probation violation. For example, the defendant may be sentenced as part of his/her probation to attend an anger management course, to pay a fine, to stay out of trouble, or to do community service for example. If someone reports to the court that this person did not attend the course or perform any other requirement, then this could be considered a violation of probation. The courts often treat this type of violation offense with great seriousness. Even tiny infractions may land such a defendant in major legal trouble.
Preponderance of Evidence
People accused of violating probation will usually be served with a “petition to revoke (or violate) probation” instructing them to return to the courtroom on a future date. A warrant for their arrest may also be issued in some circumstances. According to Illinois Statutes 5/5-6-4, their case will be directed to the County Probation Department, an agency created specifically for dealing with probation and such violations of probation. In such violation cases, the Court weighs evidence differently than the original criminal or traffic cases in the court system. In these types of cases, the prosecution does not need to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As set forth in Statutes 5/5-6-4, the Court rules on probation violation cases based upon a mere preponderance of evidence. This is a lower standard of proof than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Examples of Defenses in Cases for Violating Probation
Methods for defending against these charges vary depending upon the nature of the infraction and the terms of the probation. However, due to the different standard mentioned in the previous section, it may help to focus on the weight of evidence.
One defensive strategy is collecting an abundance of evidence that tilts in favor of the defendant. For example, someone might be accused of failing to meet with their probation officer as previously scheduled. In this hypothetical situation, if the defendant was in the hospital at the time or was physically unable to see or contact the officer, the attorney could present hospital bills, records of their stay, or the testimony from the attending physician to convince the judge that the failure to meet was not willful.
Another strategy might be attacking the prosecution’s factual assertions and seeking to invalidate the evidence that they intend to use against the defendant. Imagine a case where the defendant is accused of abusing drugs in violation of their probation terms. The defense could use independent drug test results from another hospital or doctor as evidence to show the absence of drugs in their system. The defense could also question whether the probation department’s tests themselves might have been faulty, or if outside factors may have affected the results. If either is found to be the case, then the results would be considered flawed, and therefore, inadmissible as evidence.
Contact a Probation Violation Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one face charges of a probation violation, you may risk the imposition of a more strict and harsh punishment than was received as part of the original sentence. However, if you have a skilled probation violation lawyer on your side, your attorney may be able to help you avoid those penalties. The Chicago probation attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC will use all their knowledge and resources to protect you from enhanced punishment. We have extensive experience in successfully defending people who have been charged with a probation violation. Contact us today at (312) 644-0444 and receive a prompt free consultation with one of our knowledgeable lawyers.