Some offenders are sentenced to probation in lieu of jail. An offender sentenced to probation must meet certain conditions within the deadlines set by the court. The offender must also refrain from committing new criminal acts.
If the probationer fails to do so, they will violate their probation. If you believe you have violated your probation, you should speak to an experienced Florida defense attorney right away.
What Is a VOP?
A VOP, or violation of probation, occurs when an offender violates any of the conditions of his or her probation. The majority of violations of probation in Florida fall into one of several categories:
- Committing new offenses during the probationary period;
- Failing to complete required drug treatment programs;
- Failing to pay court-mandated financial obligations such as fines, court costs, or costs of treatment;
- Missing appointments with or failing to report to probation officers; and
- Testing positive for drugs.
VOPs can occur in a variety of circumstances, and individuals who have violated their probation may face serious consequences, including jail time.
What Happens If Someone Violates Their Probation?
When reasonable grounds exist to suggest that a person has violated his or her probation, a probation officer will file an affidavit or sworn statement with the court that initially issued the probation sentence.
The court will then review the probation officer's statement. If the court believes that the individual violated his or her probation, the court will issue a VOP warrant.
The police will execute the warrant at the offender’s residence or place of business, and the offender will be taken to jail. The offender will remain in jail until the resolution of their case.
Importantly, a law enforcement officer does not need a warrant to arrest someone for probation violations. If an officer reasonably believes a person has violated their probation, the officer may arrest the offender without a warrant.
What Is a VOP Hearing?
When police arrest a person for a probation violation, the court will set a hearing to determine the status of the probation. The court will decide whether to revoke the probation, modify its terms, or leave the probation unchanged.
Like in normal criminal proceedings, the prosecution bears the burden of proving the offender’s guilt. However, offenders who violate probation lose many of the rights and protections provided during a normal criminal court proceeding.
VOP Offenders Cannot Post a Bond
When a person is arrested, he or she may post a bond or a payment to the court to secure temporary freedom from jail until the trial date.
If you violate your probation, you may forfeit this right, and you must remain in jail until the date of your hearing or your legal counsel can request a bond.
A Court Can Compel Testimony from a VOP Defendant
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents courts from requiring testimony from defendants if that testimony would incriminate the defendant or provide evidence of their guilt.
However, Florida courts have decided that a person who accepts the terms of probation waives the right to this Fifth Amendment protection. A court can force a defendant to testify during a hearing, even if that testimony would help prove the offender violated his or her probation.
The Prosecution Has a Lower Burden of Proof
In a standard criminal case, to prove a defendant’s guilt the prosecution must prove the defendant committed all of the elements of a crime "beyond a reasonable doubt."
This standard sets a high bar and requires the prosecution to present strong and compelling evidence of a person's guilt. But during a VOP hearing, the State is not required to prove the VOP beyond a reasonable doubt.
The prosecution must prove the defendant violated his or her probation by only a "preponderance of the evidence." This means that if the prosecution can prove it is more likely than not that you violated your probation, the court may find you guilty.
Additionally, hearsay is admissible at a probation revocation hearing. Hearsay is a form of evidence and is normally not admissible in court proceedings because it is unreliable. But hearsay is admissible during VOP hearings to prove a person's guilt.
Penalties for Violating Probation
If the court finds you guilty of violating your probation, you may face stiff penalties. Courts issue probation sentences in place of harsher penalties such as jail time.
If an offender violates the conditions of probation, the court may revoke the probation and impose the original punishment. The court has broad discretion to assess punishment for probation violations.
The offender may face the maximum penalty available in the original case.
Should I Hire a VOP Lawyer?
Probation violations are serious offenses and can result in harsh punishments. However, during a VOP hearing, offenders have the chance to offer the court an explanation for the alleged probation violation.
The court has broad discretion to decide how to handle VOP cases. An experienced VOP lawyer can help prevent your probation from getting revoked.
It is important to act quickly in these situations to ensure the offender does not spend any more time in jail than necessary. The lawyers at Skubiak & Rivas, P.A. have 25 years of experience representing criminal offenders and protecting their legal interests.
Our dedicated team will thoroughly investigate your case and provide you with a strong legal defense. We provide free legal consultations, and we will help you assess your case and decide how to proceed.
If you believe you have violated your probation, contact our offices at 407-598-8413 or fill out an online form today.