At the time you enter into a plea agreement, the court will give you a probationary sentence – for example, two years suspended and one year active supervised probation. Probation will come with certain conditions, which will usually be listed on the second sheet of your plea agreement. Some of those conditions may include:
- Payment of Fines
- Community Service
- Obtaining a GED
- Drug Testing
- The requirement that you not have contact with the victims of the crime
What you must remember is that these are probationary “conditions” for a reason. If you violate one of the conditions—if you test positive for a drug or fail to seek employment, for example — this will then subject you to a possible probation revocation.
This is how a revocation works. If your probation officer believes you have violated your probation, he or she will file a report with the court. The district attorney will then bring you back in front of the same judge who sentenced you to probation. The probation officer and district attorney will try to have your probation revoked and the original sentence imposed. You need to get a lawyer who is experienced with revocations and can help you explain to the judge why you did not intentionally violate your probationary conditions.
A probation revocation hearing is a pretty informal matter. You will meet before the judge, and the probation officer will explain what condition(s) you have not fulfilled. The judge will listen to the probation officer and then allow you and your probation attorney to respond. This is, of course, the critical part of the hearing. You must look the judge in the eye and explain in detail specifically why you have failed to follow your probationary conditions. At this point, the judge can do several things – revoke you and put you in jail, amend your sentence and send you to jail for a reduced amount of time, continue the revocation, or refuse to revoke you at all.
Recently I had a gentleman up for a probation revocation hearing in Lafayette, Louisiana. His probation officer was trying to revoke him because he picked up a second charge while on probation. We were able to successfully convince the judge that while the man did have a pending charge, he had not yet been convicted and there was a possibility that the charge would be dropped. The judge was sympathetic and decided to continue the revocation to see what would happen with the pending charge. If it is not absolutely clear that you have violated the conditions of your probation, the judge will often not revoke you. This is why it is so important to get an experienced probation lawyer who understands how the proceedings work.
Of course the possibility of revocation can be avoided if you follow your probationary conditions stringently, stay out of trouble, and pay all fines. But even if you do not have the money for your probationary fines or restitution, you should still meet with your probation officer as scheduled. Each time you meet with your officer, make sure you keep a receipt to prove that you have attended all required meetings. I have known instances when a probation officer, with or without intent, has mislead the court about attendance at monthly meetings.