Is Violation of Probation a New Criminal Charge?
No, not in itself. When a person is accused of violating probation in Florida, this alone does not create a new criminal charge. Nevertheless, the original criminal case will be reopened and the probationer will be prosecuted anew for the criminal charge(s) to which they pleaded guilty when placed on probation. However, if the probationer is accused of committing a new crime which violated their probation, a separate criminal case may be opened for the new offense. That new offense will have its own set of possible penalties in the event the person is found guilty of the new offense.
Can I go to Trial on a Violation of Probation?
Yes and no. The answer is yes, in that the probationer has a right to challenge the allegation that they have violated probation. The answer is no, in that the probationer does not have the same trial rights as a person accused of a new crime. First, there is no right to a jury trial on a violation of probation; rather, a judge alone will decide whether the person violated probation at a hearing. Keep in mind that this is normally the same judge who agreed to give that person probation rather than a jail or prison sentence. Second, there is a much lower legal standard the judge will use at that hearing than the standard a jury would use to decide guilt or innocence at a trial. Thus, it is much easier for the prosecutor to prove a violation of probation than to prove that a person is guilty of a new crime.
How Much Time Do I Face on My Violation of Probation?
This depends on the charges for which you were placed on probation. The maximum sentence will be the maximum sentence for whatever those charges are. The minimum sentence will depend on your score under the Florida sentencing guidelines. However, you do not have to be sentenced at all—it is possible to be reinstated on probation and given another chance to complete probation successfully even if a judge decides you have violated your probation. Often, your lawyer can also negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor to avoid a hearing and permit you to go back on probation for another chance to complete the probation term successfully.
Do I Need a Lawyer on My Violation of Probation?
Yes, definitely. Merely being accused of violating probation often results in the loss of liberty pending a strong legal defense. A person in this position has no right to a bond or any kind of release, though a lawyer can request your release from jail while they prepare your legal defense. Prosecutors are often harsh on people accused of violating probation, even for minor violations such as failed drug tests and tickets for driving with a suspended license. Having an experienced negotiator and advocate on your side can make the difference between a lengthy prison sentence and another chance to successfully complete probation. I have defended hundreds of probation violation cases during my career, both for misdemeanors and felonies.