Probation is a common sentence when a person is convicted of a crime, whether misdemeanor or felony.
What is Probation?
Probation is a period of time a person convicted of a crime will be under court supervision. Probation could be as short as six months in cases such as misdemeanor retail fraud or disorderly conduct. Or probation could be imposed for up to two years for most felonies. By law, some crimes can allow a court to impose probation for up to five years, for crimes such as stalking or sex crimes. The judge will impose probation requirements that you are expected to complete in a timely manner. Failure to complete the probation requirements, or picking up a new criminal charge, could result in a probation violation hearing.
What Can I Expect on Probation?
There are general terms of probation as well as specific terms that may apply to your type of case. For example, a common probation term is no use of drugs or alcohol. Community service is also a common probation requirement. Everyone on probation will have to pay some fines or costs, which may vary depending on the court and probation requirements imposed.
Specific terms will vary depending on the type of case and the individual. For example, in assault and domestic violence cases, there will usually be a “no-contact” order with the victim. This means you may not contact the person who was on the receiving end of the assault.
Let’s say you’re on probation for possession of a controlled substance or driving while intoxicated. You can expect heightened drug or alcohol testing in these situation. In a retail fraud or larceny case, there will usually be an educational calls dealing with economic crimes, and less emphasis on drugs or alcohol.
Probation Can Vary Depending on the Judge and Court
Probation requirements are up to the judge. Each judge and each court can have different requirements. For example, your probation requirements may be very strict in some courts while almost non-existent in other courts. Some courts will hit people with the full nine-yards of drug testing for a disorderly conduct conviction, while another court may sentence a person to non-reporting probation on a .16 drunk driving case. A criminal lawyer familiar with the courts and the probation requirements can give you an idea of what you might be facing.
What Happens if I Violate Probation?
You will be required to go back to court for a probation violation. This is called a probation violation hearing. These situations are dangerous and should be taken seriously. The judge has previously not sent you to jail. Now, the judge may look at probation as a failure. The judge is now much more likely to send you to jail, or to prison if a felony.
You are entitled to a hearing on whether the probation violation actually occurred. The hearing is not like a real trial, in which the prosecution must prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the violation must only be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, a much lower standard of proof. Therefore, it can be difficult to win these hearings. Nevertheless, sometimes the only option is to hold the hearing.
A person may also plead guilty to a violation. In this situation, the prosecutor or the probation department could make a recommendation about what the sentence for the violation will be. Often, the judge will reinstate probation where there is a minimal violation. For example, a positive drug test for marijuana might call for sanctions but not revocation of probation. Or the judge may yell at the defendant, order them to pay a fine, and not put them in jail, but promise to put them in jail at the next probation violation. The ultimate sentence is up to the judge. The defendant and his or her attorney is able to make an argument to the judge which the judge will consider.
Take Probation Violations Seriously
It’s important to take probation violations seriously. Take all necessary steps to remedy the violation as soon as possible. If you missed community service, then perform as much community service as possible before the next court hearing. Get all your fines and costs paid. Don’t walk into court without having made an attempt to fix the violation as best you can. Sometimes there’s nothing to fix, such as when you’ve picked up a new criminal charge or were arrested. But where the violation results from lack of action, take whatever action needed to fix it.
Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Attorney in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
Criminal Defense Law Firm in Ann Arbor
ArborYpsi is a law firm dedicated to criminal defense. Whether you’re charged with first-degree home invasion or a traffic misdemeanor, we will take your case seriously and zealously represent you.
Based in Washtenaw County, we regularly appear in Court in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti Township, Ypsilanti, Chelsea, Pittsfield Township, and Saline. Have you been charged with a misdemeanor or felony and would like to learn more? Just give us a call. We can schedule a free initial consultation in which we sit down and discuss the law, the court process, and your options.