What happens if I violate my probation? Will I automatically be sent to jail?
Probation violation is an offense that occurs when you break the terms or conditions of your probation. The consequences associated with probation violation usually depend on a variety of factors, such as the nature and seriousness of the violation, whether you have any prior violations, and whether there are other circumstances that may lessen (or worsen) the severity of the situation. A probation violation may result in significant penalties, such as heavy fines, extended probation, jail time, or more.
How Probation Is Violated
Probation violation laws are governed by federal and state law. Generally, a probation violation occurs when you ignore, avoid, refuse, or otherwise break the terms or conditions of your probation at any time during the probation period. Probation typically runs from one to three years, but may also last for several years depending on the original offense.
Probation may be violated in many different ways. Circumstances that may lead to a probation violation include:
•Not appearing during a scheduled court appearance on a set date and time; •Not reporting to your probation officer at the scheduled time or place; •Not paying any required fines or restitutions (to victims) as ordered by a court; •Visiting certain people or places, or traveling out of state without the permission of your probation officer; •Possessing, using, or selling illegal drugs; •Committing other crimes or offenses; and •Getting arrested for another offense, regardless of whether criminal or not.
When Probation Is Violated -- What Happens Next?
There is no set rule as to what happens immediately after a probation violation is reported. Probation officers have broad discretion to issue a warning, or require you to appear in court for a probation violation hearing. In deciding, a probation officer may consider the severity and type of condition violated, past probation violations or warnings, and other considerations.
Determination of Probation Violation
During a probation hearing, a sentencing judge will hear your case to consider whether you violated any terms or conditions of your probation. The prosecuting attorney will need to prove a violation occurred by a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, or by a likelihood of more than 50 percent. Factors a judge might consider include the nature, type, and seriousness of the violation claimed, as well as a history of prior probation violations and other aggregating or mitigating circumstances.