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Parolees and probationers are required to check in with their supervising officers as part of the conditions of their release. However, inevitably some of these individuals will fail to meet with their POs, triggering some nasty legal consequences.
Going AWOL on your probation or parole officer could mean going back to jail or prison, unless you have a very good reason for why you failed to report.
So what can happen if you fail to check in with your probation or parole officer?
Probation is a privilege, and not a right. It's called "conditional release" for a reason, and one of the easiest conditions to violate is the requirement to regularly report to your probation officer. Your probation officer (PO) may allow you to slide with a warning the first time this happens; POs have broad discretion when monitoring their probationers.
Your probation officer may also report this information to the court, triggering a probation violation hearing. At the hearing, there will be an opportunity to present evidence of whether you did in fact fail to report to your PO and if there were mitigating circumstances.
However, unlike a criminal trial, the standard of proof at a probation hearing is only preponderance of the evidence -- much lower than beyond a reasonable doubt. It is ultimately up to a judge to decide if these circumstances amounted to a probation violation and your punishment.
These punishments may include an extended period of probation, increased probation conditions, or even having your probation revoked.
Parolees who fail to report to their parole officers may be in for similar consequences, although there may be less wiggle room. Many states have set up stricter guidelines for punishment of parole violations. California, for example, instituted an automated system to categorize parole offenses and recommend an appropriate punishment.
Although there are ways to appeal these sanctions -- the most severe of which is a return to prison -- your parole officer may only be able to make a recommendation against sanctions. Depending on the frequency or severity of your failure to report, you may be looking at an extended period of parole or even a return to prison custody.
If you've failed to report to your PO and you're concerned about the legal consequences, consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.