Were you sentenced to a term of probation as a penalty for a criminal offense in San Diego? Have you recently violated the terms of that probation? If so, you need the help of an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney to protect your future. You will have the opportunity to defend yourself at your probation violation hearing. Having an attorney by your side at this hearing will help you secure the best possible outcome.
Contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC to find out how we can help you minimize the consequences of your probation violation. It’s important to act quickly, so call us today for a free consultation.
What is Probation?
Probation is a frequently-used criminal penalty is San Diego. If your crime was relatively minor, a judge may decide that requiring you to complete a term of supervised probation is more appropriate than sending you to jail. When you are on probation you must stay out of trouble and comply with any terms imposed by the court. In some cases, you may also be required to check in with your probation officer at regularly-scheduled intervals.
Violating the terms of your probation can be devastating for your future. A court has the authority to revoke probation and require you to serve whatever penalty is typically awarded for your specific crime. This means that even if you avoided time behind bars the first time around, you could be sent to jail or prison for violating your probation.
Probation Violations in California
How can you violate probation in California? It really depends on the type of probation to which you’ve been sentenced. There are two primary types of probation: summary and formal.
Summary probation, which is also known as “informal” probation, is typically imposed after you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense. Since misdemeanors are the least serious crimes you can commit, judges often prefer to keep defendants out of jail and, instead, complete a term of semi-supervised release.
How is summary probation semi-supervised? When you’re on summary probation you likely are not required to check in with a probation officer. Instead, you must simply show the court that you are staying out of trouble and completing all of the ordered terms of your release. These terms may include:
- Community service
- Finding gainful employment
- Abstaining from drug and alcohol use
- Paying fines and restitution, and
- Staying out of legal trouble.
In theory, the court can impose any conditions that serve justice and are related to your crime.
You can violate summary probation if you (a) commit a new criminal offense and/or (b) fail to complete the terms of your probationary release.
Formal probation can allow you to avoid some or all of a prison sentence that is typically imposed after a felony conviction. Rather than requiring you to go to prison, a court may decide that ordering you to complete a term of supervised formal probation is a more appropriate punishment. Unlike summary probation, formal probation is closely supervised by a probation officer.
The terms and conditions of formal probation are generally more serious and easier to violate. For example, terms of formal probation may include:
- Mandatory drug testing
- Monthly meetings with a probation officer
- Agreeing to submit to random searches of your property
- Serving a limited amount of time in jail
- Prohibitions on leaving the state, and
- Agreeing to not violate any laws.
Your probation officer will keep a very close eye on your progress and file regular reports with the court. Even the slightest violation of your probation can put your future in jeopardy.
Probation Violation Hearings
A judge cannot automatically put you behind bars for an alleged violation of your probation. You will have the right to defend yourself at a probation revocation hearing. Think of this hearing as a mini-trial. You and the state will both have the opportunity to argue your side of the story and present evidence to support your case. A judge will listen, assess the facts and evidence at hand, and make a decision about your future.
What Rights Do I Have at a Probation Revocation Hearing?
Since your probation revocation hearing is a formal legal proceeding, you are entitled to exercise certain rights. These include the right to:
- Have an attorney represent you at the hearing
- Call and subpoena witnesses to testify under oath
- Cross-examine witnesses presented by the state
- Present evidence in your defense
- Argue mitigating factors that may be important to your case; and
- Have access to any evidence that may be used against you.
Your San Diego criminal lawyer will make sure that you are given every opportunity to exercise these very important rights.
What Can Happen at My Probation Violation Hearing?
Once your attorney and the state prosecutor have presented their arguments to the court, a judge will make a decision about your future. There are three distinct outcomes that can result:
No Changes to Probation: If there is no evidence that you violated your probation, or if the violation was relatively minor, a judge may decide to simply reinstate the original terms of your probation.
Revising Probation: If the judge decides that you did violate probation, but feels that sending you to jail would not be an appropriate response, he or she may decide to simply change the terms of your release. This could mean having the duration of your probation extended or being required to complete additional terms (e.g., counseling, drug testing, consenting to searches, verifying employment).
Revoking Probation: Serious violations of your probation can result in the complete revocation of your supervised release. If this happens you can be sentenced to whatever penalty is traditionally imposed for your original crime.
For example, let’s say you are arrested, tried, and convicted for shoplifting. In California, shoplifting is punishable by 6 months in prison or three years of informal probation. You’re originally sentenced to probation. You violate the terms of your probation by failing to show up for mandatory counseling sessions. At your revocation hearing, a judge decides that there is no reasonable excuse for this violation, revokes your probation, and sends you to jail.
Contact Vikas Bajaj for Help
Have you recently been accused of violating the terms of your probation? Contact the San Diego criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC for immediate legal assistance. You have the right to defend yourself at your probation revocation hearing, and we can help you protect your future. If you do nothing you may lose your probation and be sent to jail. Asserting a strong defense at your hearing can help to reduce the likelihood of this occurring. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.