Though probation can be quite difficult — particularly in situations where the probate court imposed excessive, unreasonable, and otherwise unjustified probationary conditions that limit your freedoms — it’s certainly better than a term of imprisonment. In Florida, probation is a privilege granted by the court as an alternative to imprisonment, and is intended to smooth out the process of re-integrating the offender into society (and rehabilitating them) while simultaneously protecting the public from harm.
Probationary conditions can be rather confusing. After all, it can be hard to keep up with the complex web of conditions that have been imposed on you — in some cases, you might simply be unaware that you have violated a probationary condition. For example, perhaps you forgot that you had a curfew of 9:00PM, and you returned home a bit late from a social gathering.
If you’ve violated the terms of your probation, the court may choose to revoke probation and sentence you to the term of imprisonment that they would have otherwise been entitled to impose during your original criminal proceedings. Given the severe consequences for violations, you’ll want to consult with an experienced team of Sarasota criminal defense attorneys at Fowler Law Group for guidance on how to avoid additional penalties.
Probation Violations at a Glance
In Florida, a court may only find that the terms of probation have been violated if the prosecution can show that the defendant: willfully and substantially failed to adhere to the terms of probation.
Though the court has significant leeway (i.e., substantial discretion) in determining whether you have, in fact, violated the terms of your probation — willfully and substantially — the court must properly consider the circumstances. If the circumstances clearly support the conclusion that you unintentionally violated a probationary condition, then revocation is inappropriate.
Whether a given violation is willful generally depends on a showing of reasonable compliance efforts. For example, if you have to check-in with your probationary officer every week, and you were headed towards the check-in meeting (but missed the session due to unexpected traffic on the freeway), the court must take those circumstantial factors into account.
Insubstantial violations of probationary conditions are not sufficient to revoke probation altogether. Whether a given violation is “substantial” is highly dependent on the circumstances and nature of the violation. For example, if you have a 9:00PM curfew and you return home 15 minutes late, that will likely be considered insubstantial. On the other hand, if you are two hours late — and you have no reasonable excuse for being so late — then the court may find that the violation is substantial. On the other hand, the court may exercise its broad discretion and determine that a single violation is simply not enough to deem “substantial” and may require a more consistent record of violations.
What Happens After a Violation?
If the court does find that you have committed a probation violation, they may either revoke probation and sentence you in accordance with the original offense(s), or impose a modified set of probationary conditions and allow you to continue on probation. Of course, modified probation is preferable, though your attorney will be an invaluable asset during this stage, as the court may attempt to impose strict probationary conditions as a means of further controlling you and preventing future violations.
Critically, any and all probationary conditions must be reasonable — they cannot be vague, arbitrary, or malicious in nature. If the court attempts to impose such a condition, then you can challenge its imposition.
Contact Our Team of Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorneys for Comprehensive Legal Assistance
If you have been put on probation and are concerned that you may have violated the terms of your probation, or if the State has already begun proceedings against you for the purported violation(s) at-issue, then you’ll want to get in touch with one of the seasoned Sarasota criminal defense attorneys at Fowler Law Group as soon as possible for a comprehensive evaluation of your case — with the aid of an attorney, you can determine how best to proceed with your defense so as to avoid further penalties.