Probation is a sentencing alternative to incarceration for people with misdemeanor or felony charges and some traffic offenses.
It is a period of time where someone has to meet certain obligations set by the court, and violations can carry hefty consequences.
If you were charged with violating your probation, here are five things you should know.
What Happens If I Violate Probation in Colorado?
If you violate probation, you will receive written notice of the violations and your probation officer can order you back to court.
You could be arrested without bail on a “no bond” warrant.
The prosecutor files a “Motion to Revoke Probation” and the judge will schedule a hearing to determine if you violated probation.
Similar to a trial, you will first have to plead guilty or not guilty. You have the right to an attorney, but not a jury trial.
The judge has a multitude of options for sentencing.
They could re-sentence you to probation with additional terms, including:
- House arrest;
- Additional community service obligations;
- Mandated rehabilitation;
- Additional fines and fees;
- Electronic monitoring; or
- Additional education classes.
They could also revoke your probation and order you to serve the remainder of your sentence in jail or prison.
The consequences are based on the nature of the violation, your criminal history, and your risk of repeat offenses.
Possible Probation Violations
Probation violations are either technical or substantive.
A technical violation is a failure to meet some term of your probation agreement, including:
- Failing to show up for an appointment with your probation officer;
- Not paying fines or fees;
- Losing employment or changing jobs without permission;
- Moving without permission;
- Possessing a weapon;
- Contacting the victim;
- Failing mandatory drug tests;
- Violating curfew;
- Not completing community service; or
- Not completing a mandated treatment program.
Substantive violations happen if you commit any new offense while you are on probation.
For instance, if your driving privileges have been suspended, it is a criminal offense to drive.
So if you are on probation and are caught driving on a suspended license, this is a new criminal charge that will violate your probation.
What Happens If I Am Ordered Back to Court?
Your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain rather than going to a hearing on your violation of probation.
A plea bargain is when you admit your violation in return for a favorable agreement with the prosecutor and probation officer.
This would be the best-case scenario if you did in fact violate your probation.
Securing a deal with the prosecutor is typically better than going before a judge to get your sentence.
This is because the judge has wide discretion and you never know which way they will go.
They could sentence you lighter than the prosecutor, or they could hit you with a stiff penalty that you really don’t like.
After admitting the violation, if the judge hits you with a stiff penalty, you really cannot take back your plea.
This can put you in a bad situation, so it is usually better to secure your sentence with the prosecutor first.
However, keep in mind that the judge has final approval.
If you are charged with a new criminal offense, your attorney might be able to negotiate a plea bargain that takes care of both the probation violation and the new offense at the same time.
This is called a “global disposition,” which makes the most sense when there is no chance of total dismissal of the new charges.
If a plea bargain is not possible, you would have a hearing.
The judge would hear the evidence and decide whether you have violated probation, and then move to sentencing.
How Does the Prosecutor Prove that I Violated Probation?
The prosecutor must only prove that you violated probation by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning you more than likely did it.
They will base their case on your probation officer’s complaint and testimony.
You may also have to testify at your own hearing. Unlike in a criminal trial, if you choose to exercise your right to silence, it can be used against you as a sign of guilt.
The evidence rules for probation violation hearings are looser than in more formal trials.
Pretty much any evidence that could prove the violation is usable so long as you have a fair opportunity to respond to hearsay.
Appeals are possible but limited to procedural violations.
How Can an Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
Probation violations are serious matters. You could be facing increased fines, jail time, and other penalties.
It is in your best interest to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you mitigate the consequences.
Your attorney would know the best strategy for your defense and is in a better position to negotiate for the best outcome.
Contact the Lux Law Firm for Your Best Defense
The Lux Law Firm specializes in criminal defense and our attorneys know the Colorado criminal justice system from the inside out.
We have the experience and practice to provide you with the best possible defense.
Our managing attorney is a former District Attorney and utilizes his intimate understanding of the legal system and criminal trials to your best advantage.