When a convicted person receives probation, they must adhere to the strict conditions imposed by the judge. Failure to do so means they could end up with a probation violation, and face the jail time probation allowed them to avoid. Anyone charged with a probation violation requires the services of an experienced probation lawyer.
Common Probation Conditions
The conditions placed on an individual’s probation are at the discretion of the judge, but should relate to the crime the person was found guilty of committing or to which they pleaded guilty. Common probation conditions include:
- Regular meetings with the probation officer
- Community service
- Education and work commitments
- No alcohol consumption
- No firearms or other weapons possession
- Fines and financial restitution
- No contact with specific individuals
- No changing address without permission of the probation officer.
While Maryland’s statutory limit for probation is five years, judges have broad discretion when imposing probation, as state sentencing guidelines don’t address probation conditions.
Do not take probation lightly. It’s a serious matter and requires complete compliance. You may know better than to commit a crime or violate certain conditions of your probation, such as consuming alcohol, but matters that may appear less important can land you in jail for probation violation. So-called “technical” probation violations – such as showing up late for meetings with your probation officer, texting or leaving a voicemail rather than physically appearing at such meetings, avoiding community service requirements – are still violations and could have the police at your door. The first rules of successful probation involve showing up at the right time and place and never making excuses.
If the person on probation is arrested and charged with committing a crime while on probation, the arrest itself can violate their probation and a separate arrest warrant may be issued. The Judge can preset the terms of release or bail (including holding without bail). It is imperative to contact a probation lawyer as soon as possible. Otherwise, the individual could stay in jail until their violation of probation hearing.
Parole differs from probation as the individual granted parole was incarcerated for the crime. Maryland law defines parole as “discretionary and conditional release of an offender into the community to continue serving the sentence under supervision by an agent of the Division of Parole and Probation.” Each offender receives conditions of release. As with probation, violation of any of those conditions is grounds for a parole violation hearing. Such a hearing is also known as a revocation of a parole hearing. If the parolee is found to have violated conditions of release, he or she must serve the remainder of their sentence.
Probation Violation Hearing
The hearing is held to determine whether or not a parole violation occurred. Maryland law states “when practicable,” the same judge who presided over the sentencing should preside over the hearing. Unlike the situation for which the person was charged and found guilty, a probation violation hearing is not a criminal matter per se. Instead, it is conducted as a civil proceeding, and the decision is made by a judge, not a jury. The violation of probation decision is not based on “beyond a reasonable doubt,” as in a criminal proceeding, but rather on “preponderance of the evidence.”
When the hearing starts, the defendant either agrees or denies that they violated probation. If the latter, a full hearing is conducted. A state’s witness, usually the probation officer, presents the evidence to the court of a probation violation. Other witnesses may testify as to whether or not probation was violated. Should the judge decide probation was violated, the hearing then turns to sentencing.
Probation Violation Sentencing
Probation violators may receive up to their maximum, previously suspended sentence. The judge may impose less jail time or fines. For less critical parole violations, the judge may extend probation.
Why a Probation Attorney is Crucial
A probation attorney may prove to the court that the violation was unintentional or beyond the control of the individual, the judge may reinstate the probation order’s original terms. Although there are “no excuses” when it comes to probation, in life there are circumstances occurring beyond anyone’s control. Without good legal representation, the defendant is far more likely to end up incarcerated or paying large fines.