A violation of probation is a serious matter, one that could easily result in jail time without effective legal representation. If you are found to have committed a violation of probation (VOP), you may be imprisoned for part or all of the portion of your sentence that was suspended when you were first placed on probation. You may also lose the benefit of any previous finding of probation before judgment. I can help you avoid these serious consequences.
Probation Violation Summons or Warrant
When your probation officer or a prosecutor feels that you have violated a condition of your probation, he files a document with the court alleging the violation, and requests that the presiding judge issue a summons or a warrant for you to appear violation of probation hearing. The judge then reviews that document and decides whether to issue a summons or a warrant. At your violation of probation hearing, the judge will determine whether you have violated the conditions of your probation, and if you have, the penalty for the violation.
If you believe that your probation officer may have violated your probation, or if you have done anything that may be a violation of your probation, you may have an outstanding bench warrant for your arrest for a violation of probation. You should not expect to be notified that there is a warrant outstanding for your arrest for violating your probation. Instead, the police will simply try to arrest you, and will sometimes lie to you about existence of the warrant in order to accomplish that. The more severe the underlying offense, and the more significant the violation, the more motivated the local authorities are likely to be to come find and arrest you.
Depending on your situation, the warrant for your arrest arising out of the alleged violation of probation can be as much of a problem as the violation of probation itself. Fortunately, I can often get these warrants recalled, avoiding your arrest and the accompanying period of incarceration. If you are arrested and no bond is allowed, or the bond is set at a level too high for you to afford, you may be incarcerated until your violation of probation hearing. There are things that I can do to reduce or eliminate the amount that must be posted as bond if it is unaffordably high.
Maximum Penalty for Violation of Probation
When a judge places you on probation, the judge suspends part or all of your sentence. That suspended part of your sentence which you have not already served is the maximum penalty that may be imposed for a non-technical violation of the conditions of your probation. Acts that are a violation of probation may also be independent crimes carrying their own maximum penalties, for which you could be tried and sentenced separately. If you received probation before judgment, and you are found to be in violation of probation, the judge can issue any sentence that they could have issued originally had they found you guilty.
Technical Violation of Probation
There is a separate category of penalties for probation violations of a more minor nature, called a “technical violation”, that are presumed to have a lower maximum penalty. A technical violation in the context of probation, parole, or mandatory supervision is anything that does not involve a violation of a criminal prohibition other than a minor traffic offense, a violation of a no contact or stay away order, an arrest or summons issued by a commissioner on charges requested by a law enforcement officer, or absconding. Absconding means that you willfully evaded supervision. Missing a single appointment is not absconding, but missing several appointments might be.
An example of a technical violation would be a failure to provide documents to your probation officer when requested, or a missing a session of a required course or program. A DUI conviction would not usually be considered a technical violation, but a prepayable speeding ticket would be a technical violation of probation. What is and is not a technical violation can be hotly contested, and it is important to be well versed in the law before handling one of these cases. Do not assume that your idea of what is and is not a technical violation of probation will prevail without the assistance of a good lawyer.
The limits on punishment for a technical violation are presumed to be 15 days for a first technical violation, 30 days for a second technical violation, and 45 days for a third technical violation. A fourth or subsequent technical violation is not limited. In any case, the length of incarceration may not exceed the suspended part of your sentence, even if your sentence is less 15, 30, or 45 days.
If the proper standards are met, a judge can exceed those limits and impose a greater part of your suspended sentence for a technical violation, but only after certain specific findings are made that there would be a risk to public safety, a victim, or a witness if a higher sentence were not imposed.
New Conviction While on Probation
If you are found guilty or placed on probation before judgment in a separate proceeding while you are already on probation, that finding alone will generally be sufficient to prove a non-technical violation of probation. For that reason, it is very important to vigorously defend each and every offense that you may be charged with while you are on probation. If you are on probation and you are charged with a crime, please contact me immediately. I can often resolve additional charges in a way that will not violate your probation.
A new charge will often result in a violation of probation hearing. The judge will usually wait for the outcome of the charge before deciding that you violated probation or not. However, a judge may not wait for the outcome of the charge before deciding that you should be held in jail with an unreasonably high bail, or on a no bond warrant awaiting the outcome of the violation of probation proceeding. It is important to have an effective lawyer at every stage of a violation of probation proceeding to maximize the chance of a positive outcome. There are many steps that I can take to avoid jail while you are waiting for your violation of probation hearing.
Violation of Probation Hearing Standard of Proof
A Maryland violation of probation hearing is different from a criminal trial in many ways, as it is legally a civil proceeding. The standard of proof is far lower at a violation of probation hearing; the State only has to show that you violated your probation by a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt, though sometimes in practice the judge will use a higher standard even though it is not required. Also, the judge need not always follow the same rules of evidence in a violation of probation hearing that would apply at a trial. Still, there are many important legal protections that I can use to defend you and present your side of the story.
If the judge finds that you have violated the terms of your probation at your violation of probation hearing, part or all of the suspended portion of your sentence may be imposed. However, what the judge actually decides to do can change greatly depending on what happens at your violation of probation hearing. Even if you are eventually proven to have knowingly violated your probation, I may be able to convince the judge that your violation does not merit any significant penalty.
Maryland violation of probation hearings may be scheduled more quickly than trials, and many defenses are available. They are also more likely to result in jail while you are waiting for your violation of probation hearing than an original criminal case, making an effective lawyer even more important. I have a lot of experience successfully defending people in violation of probation cases, and I can help you too. Call (301) 556‑8709 today so that we can get to work on your case.