A Probation Violation is Easier to Prove than a Criminal Offense in Florida

As a punishment for a felony or misdemeanor conviction, defendants tend to choose probation over jail or prison when they have an option. While probation comes with a number of conditions, getting to live (and sleep) in your own home seems like the better option.

In Florida, individuals convicted of a crime may be sentenced to probation or have their jail or prison sentence “probated,” which allows them to serve probation in lieu of going behind bars. 

One critical aspect of probation in Florida is the lower standard of proof required to prove a violation of probation (VoP). First, with respect to the underlying charges, the state is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offense. Fortunately for defendants, this is a relatively high bar to clear.

Conversely, the state only needs to prove upon a preponderance of the evidence that the individual committed a VoP. If the judge determines that, more likely than not, you violated the terms and conditions of your probation, you are guilty of a VoP. 

Common Reasons for Violation of Probation Charges

An important thing to understand about probation in Florida is that the state views the punishment as a privilege and not a right. Thus, Floridians should not be surprised when the state places a number of conditions on the individual’s probation. A few common probation violations include: 

  • Failing to report to your probation officer as required;
  • Traveling outside of the areas you are allowed to occupy (home, work, city of residence) without prior approval;
  • Failing a drug or alcohol screening;
  • Possessing or carrying an unauthorized gun or weapon;
  • Failing to maintain gainful employment; and/or
  • Getting arrested for another charge while on probation.

The last violation mentioned above brings up an interesting point. Even if you are found not guilty of the charge you were arrested for while on probation, the judge at your VoP hearing might still use that arrest to determine that you violated the terms of your probation.

What Happens at the Violation of Probation Hearing?

A VoP hearing is triggered when your probation officer believes that you violated your probation. He or she will send an affidavit to a judge that includes the nature of your alleged violation and any supporting evidence. You will be arrested if the judge determines the alleged violation may have occurred. 

Probation violators do not have the luxury of a jury trial at a VoP hearing. Both sides will present evidence, which may include hearsay—another departure from normal criminal trials. 

If the judge determines that you willfully violated your probation, he or she will decide your punishment. One possible punishment for a VoP is being sentenced to the maximum prison time applicable to the original crime. In other cases where the defendant willfully violated probation, the judge might add more conditions or extend the probation.

Call an Aggressive and Skilled Attorney to Protect Your Rights

It’s easy to feel like the state has the upper hand if you’re arrested for a probation violation. The best thing you can do for your case is to contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney. 

Your attorney can help show that you never committed the alleged violation, the violation was not willful, or that you have genuine remorse over the violation. Depending on your situation, any one of those findings can be beneficial for your case. Let’s discuss your legal needs today.

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Heather Bryan Law, P.A.

Our firm has experience defending Floridians against all sorts of criminal charges. Additionally, we are well-equipped to handle emotionally charged family law matters and devastating personal injury cases.

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