When a convicted person receives probation, they must adhere to the conditions imposed by the judge. Failure to do so can result in a violation. This could mean serving the jail time probation allowed them to avoid. Anyone charged with a probation violation needs an experienced probation lawyer.
Common Probation Conditions
The conditions placed on probation are up to the judge. They should, however, relate to the crime. Common probation conditions include:
- Regular meetings with the probation officer
- Community service
- Education and work commitments
- No alcohol
- No firearms or other weapons possession
- Fines and restitution
- No contact with specific people
- No changing address without permission
While Maryland’s statutory limit for probation is five years, judges have broad discretion. State sentencing guidelines don’t address probation conditions.
Do not take probation lightly. It requires complete compliance. Matters that may seem unimportant can land you in jail. “Technical” violations, such as showing up late for meetings with your probation officer, texting or leaving a voicemail rather than physically appearing, and avoiding community service, are still violations. These can result in police at your door. Successful probation means showing up and not making excuses.
If the person on probation is arrested and also charged, the arrest might violate their probation. A separate warrant can be issued. The judge can also preset the terms of release or bail (including holding without bail). It’s important to contact a probation lawyer immediately. Otherwise, a person could stay in jail until their violation of probation hearing.
Parole differs from probation. A person 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.” Offenders receive conditions of release. Violation of any of those conditions is grounds for a parole violation hearing. If the parolee violates these conditions, he must serve the remainder of his sentence.
Probation Violation Hearing
The hearing determines whether or not a parole violation occurred. Maryland law states “when practicable,” the same judge should preside over the hearing. Unlike a case in which a person is found guilty, a probation violation hearing is not a criminal matter. Instead, it is a civil proceeding. The decision is made by a judge, not a jury. Violation of probation is not based on “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Rather, it is based 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 also conducted. Additionally, a state’s witness, usually the probation officer, presents the evidence to the court. Other witnesses testify as to whether probation was violated. If the judge decides probation was violated, the hearing turns to sentencing.
Probation Violation Sentencing
Probation violators may receive their previously suspended sentence. The judge may impose less jail time or fines. For less critical violations, the judge may also extend probation.
Why a Probation Attorney is Crucial
A probation attorney may prove to the court that the violation was unintentional or beyond control. The judge may also reinstate the probation order’s original terms. Although there are “no excuses,” there are circumstances beyond one’s control. Without good legal representation, the defendant is far more likely to end up incarcerated or paying large fines.