According to Florida law, probation is a type of community supervision requiring an offender to maintain certain contacts with particular officers and follow certain terms or conditions outlined by a court order. Probation is typically considered preferable to prison sentences (a privilege, rather than a right), which is why probation violations are taken so seriously. A violation is defined as a defendant substantially and willfully violating the conditions of his or her probationary sentence.
However, to prove you did violate your probation, the prosecution must meet a minimum standard of proof and establish you willfully and substantially violated your probation. If the prosecution does meet the minimum standard of proof the trial court can revoke probation or community control if the state proves by the greater weight of the evidence you are guilty of willfully violating a particular condition of your sentence. However, each case is different and must be decided individually.
To prove the violation was “substantial and willful,” the prosecution must prove you did not make reasonable efforts to comply with the conditions of your probation. If you did make reasonable efforts, the prosecution would have a hard time convincing the court there is sufficient evidence to revoke your probation privileges.
Most probation violations come from a few common scenarios, such as new criminal offenses, failed drug tests, failure to meet financial obligations, missed appointments, and failure to complete court-ordered programs. The most common type of violation includes committing another crime, after which the state must present direct, substantial evidence linking you to the commission of the offense you are accused of. Otherwise, your probation is unlikely to be revoked. Likewise, an arrest alone is not enough to merit the violation of probation.
Other violations include positive drug tests. In cases such as these, the state needs more than just the testimony of your probation officer to prosecute the crime. They must have something concrete, such as a blood test that indicates the presence of narcotics in your body.
Revoking probation for failing to complete a drug treatment program will depend in large part on whether the court mandated completion of a specific amount of time for entrance or completion. If the court didn’t specify a timeline, the defendant is unlikely to be found guilty of willfully violating that particular aspect of probation.
Failing to pay financial obligation also can be defended if you were facing financial hardships at the time. If the prosecution fails to demonstrate you were capable of paying without experiencing financial hardship, they cannot revoke your probation. Doing so could lead to a reversal of the decision, such as in the case of Stephens v. State.
Likewise, any acts resulting from mental illness can not lead to a revoked probation, as those susceptible to mental illnesses can’t be proven to be “willfully” in violation of the probation. For example, if a defendant is a paranoid schizophrenic, his or her delusions could have been the cause of the violations. Negligence and ineptitude are also not enough of a reason to constitute “willful” behavior.
If you missed an appointment or a report, this is usually forgiven if it only happens once. Without further demonstrations of the same violation, the prosecution can’t prove the noncompliance was willful. However, if there is substantial evidence the failure is willful, the state will consider this a deliberate violation.
Penalties for violating your probation typically result in a penalty similar to what you would have received for the crime you committed. For example, if the typical sentence for petit theft is 60 days in jail, but the judge sentenced you to probation, you would receive 60 days in jail if you violated the terms of that probation.
If you are accused of violating your probation, make sure you have an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney on your side. Musca Law has developed a reputation for having fierce and aggressive advocates dedicated to protecting the rights and freedom of our clients. We have more than 150 years of collective legal experience to offer your case. Let us see what we can do for you.
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