What Happens if I Violate my Probation in Florida?: Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Answers
The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) is in charge of monitoring people put on probation by the court. Probation is a type of consequence for a crime in Florida.
Probation allows someone who was found guilty of a crime or who pleaded guilty to a crime to remain in the community instead of going to jail or prison. Probation typically comes with some strict court-ordered rules in Florida that a person needs to follow. The person will have a probation officer who will supervise them - some visits will be scheduled, others can be a surprise or unannounced.
Depending on the terms of probation, there are a number of ways that someone can violate probation. Often, there are standard probation rules, but depending on the crime there may be lesser rules put in place, or additional rules added to the standard probationary rules.
Examples of Violating Probation in Florida can include, but are not limited to:
- Failure to meet curfew (coming home past the court-ordered time)
- Failure to pay restitution (money owed to a victim of a crime) that has been ordered by the court
- Failure to submit to random, unannounced alcohol or drug testing
- Failing a random, unannounced alcohol or drug test
- Failing to report to your probation officer (PO) as directed
- Violating any other law (whether it be a misdemeanor, felony, or criminal traffic offense)
Certain violations of probation (VOPs) are within the probation officer’s discretion as to whether or not they wish to file an official violation of probation affidavit.
For example, say there was miscommunication between parties resulting in the probationer failing to report to his or her probation officer as directed. The probation officer may reach out to the probationer to ask why he or she did not make the meeting.
If there was a genuine misunderstanding or, in some cases, if it was the first time the probationer missed a meeting, some probation officers may let it slide and choose to not file an affidavit of probation violation.
Many probation officers and violations, however, are not as forgiving. If a Florida probation term was violated, the probation officer can either arrest the individual at the time they find that a term of probation has been violated, or they can file an affidavit indicating the individual violated probation and a judge will issue a warrant for that person’s arrest upon review of the affidavit.
If the probationer violates another law, probation officers do not have the discretion as to whether or not an affidavit of probation violation is filed. When another crime occurs and the charges are filed for the new law violation, the State Attorney’s Office reopens the case that the probationer was initially put on probation for.
The person on probation will now have an old case designated as a Violation of Probation case (or a VOP), and a possible new case for the new law violation. You do not need to be convicted of the new criminal charge in order for the previous case to be reopened as a Violation of Probation (VOP).
Violation of Probation cases are handled very differently than your average criminal case. As a defendant in a Violation of Probation case, you are only entitled to a hearing in front of a judge. The judge will make a factual determination on whether or not you knowingly or willfully violated your probation and will make another determination as to sentencing. Sentences can vary; a judge can decide to reinstate your probation or take you off of probation entirely and incarcerate you. In some cases, if you break a condition of probation in Florida, you can then be sentenced to the maximum jail or prison time allowed by Florida Law for whatever the initial crime you committed (that led to you being placed on probation) was. For example, if you committed a crime with a 10-year maximum prison sentence, but were placed on probation -- if you are found to violate your probation, you very well could be looking at 10 years in prison. It is much harder to negotiate your sentence down on a VOP, because your attorney already previously got you the lesser punishment for your crime. Since you already avoided prison time once, some judges are less forgiving and can more harshly sentence a VOP in Florida.
The best defense to a violation of probation in Florida is proving that the action the individual took that actually violated the terms of probation was not done willfully.
So, using the previous example of miscommunication where the probationer did not realize they had a meeting with their probation officer, that would be a non-willful violation of probation.
If the probation officer is unforgiving and decides to arrest that individual, it is important to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you’ve been charged with a Violation of Probation in South Florida, a skilled Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney can help you argue your side and present the best legally relevant facts in your case, regardless of whether the conduct was willful, to encourage the judge to obtain the best possible outcome for your particular situation.
You certainly don’t want to stand before the judge alone. Having a trusted criminal defense attorney by your side fighting for your future is a must if you’re facing a violation of probation allegation in South Florida.
We take the time to listen to your whole story, and then we let you know exactly how we’d fight to protect your rights and your future.
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