What Happens If You Violate Probation?
This question comes up from clients pretty often. This post is Part 1 of 2. The stakes can be high if your probation is revoked in Texas. Usually, clients call or ask me – what happens if you violate probation? My answer is the same… it depends. Many clients are fearful of the sword hanging over their head that is probation. What happens when they violate probation can be very nerve wracking, especially if they’re facing prison time. It’s a very valid concern considering many criminal cases are resolved through a plea bargain agreement between the Defendant and the State. If you’re considering whether or not to take a plea bargain the question of probation will almost certainly come up. However, it’s important to talk to your lawyer and remember that NOT ALL PROBATION IS THE SAME. Misdemeanor probation and felony probation are different if for no other reason than the potential punishment is so much greater. Either way, this is the broad overview of what happens.
If you remember back to my previous post, What’s the difference between Deferred Adjudication and Straight Probation? I explained the important difference between the two. Don’t accept any plea deal unless you know the pros and cons beforehand. With that being said… What happens if you violation probation?
Steps Involved in Probation Violations
- Probation Officer as the “Gatekeeper”
- Motion to Revoke Probation
- Probation Revocation Hearing
- Plea Bargain/Hearing
- Punishment Decided by Judge
Probation Officer as the “Gatekeeper”
The reason I call the Probation Officer or “PO” the “Gatekeeper” is because if you’re on probation, he/she will be your main contact. Your PO will monitor you while you’re on probation to make sure that you’re following your Conditions of Probation that were imposed on you by the Court. (Click that link for a refresher). In that laundry list of conditions while you’re on probation, you don’t get to pick and choose which ones to follow. Usually there is a provision which says “Follow all conditions and directions of your Probation Officer.” This can make or break your probation. Ultimately, your PO will be the person who decides whether or not to file a Motion to Revoke against you.
I say that because your PO can enforce some conditions much more strictly than others. For example, let’s say one of your Conditions is that you allow your PO to visit you at work or at home. Maybe your PO will tell you that he/she will never visit you at either of those places. Maybe your Probation Conditions included in person, office visits with your PO but your PO told you that you can check in via email or over the phone. These are gifts from my point of view. In those situations, your PO would be giving you a bit more freedom in terms of enforcement. Basically, your PO is making your life much, much easier. Keep that in mind. Follow your Conditions of Probation and do what you need to be doing and what your PO tells you to do. Stay on your PO’s good side.
What Happens on Your 1st Probation Violation?
The answer is… it depends. After your 1st Probation Violation, different things can happen. These can include your PO filing a Motion to Revoke, your PO becoming more strict, or your PO asking you to do additional classes/trainings/evaluations/drug tests. Here are some things to consider:
- How long have you been on probation?
- Have you been following most or all of your conditions?
- How major of a violation did you commit?
- Did you show up 5 minutes late for a meeting or did you get arrested on a new charge?
- Do you get along with your PO?
If you follow your Probation Conditions, then your PO is less likely to file a Motion to Revoke Probation is you slip up. By slip up, I mean that you violated or did not follow one or more of your conditions. Keep those things in mind that I just listed. If you’ve been on probation for a long time, followed most of your conditions, get along with your PO and didn’t commit a serious violation, chances are good that your 1st probation violation won’t turn into a Motion to Revoke Probation (Step 2). Ultimately, your PO will decide whether or not to file a revocation.
Filing of a Motion to Revoke Probation
Most PO’s won’t file a request to revoke your probation lightly. Once you’ve gotten to the point of a Revocation Motion, you’ve likely exhausted your PO’s patience and willingness to give you another chance. The Motion to Revoke will be presented to the Judge, signed by the Judge, and include a Warrant of Arrest for the police to come and pick you up. If this is your 1st Probation Violation, depending on the facts, it may be easier to work out an agreement beforehand. However, whether it’s your first probation violation or your 5th, the facts of your case, the details of what happened, and your effort to comply with the conditions have a great deal to do with how the upcoming hearing will end.
Probation Revocation Hearings
This is where you, your lawyer, a prosecutor, and a probation officer will go in front of the Court. If no plea agreement has been worked out, there may be a full hearing with your PO testifying against you. I’m going to keep this section short because I wrote a whole page on this topic not that long ago. My page Probation Revocation Hearings goes into a good amount of detail about what goes on during a hearing. That page also includes what you can expect, the process, and what some of the outcomes can be.
Feel free to comment below with questions or send me an email.