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How to Prepare for a Probation Violation Hearing

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Probation can be a pain. Between the restrictive conditions and the aggressive probation officers, it seems like you're set up to fail. And if you're accused of violating your probation, things can get even worse.

While probation officers have the discretion to simply issue a warning for an alleged probation violation, they are generally more likely to request a court hearing to determine if there was a violation and, if so, what the punishment will be. So what exactly happens at the hearing and how can you prepare?

Admitting a Violation

Normally, the violation hearing is presided over by the same judge who sentenced you to probation in the first place, and you'll be given the chance to either admit or deny the violation. If you actually violated your probation as charged, you can always admit to the violation. In some cases, though not all, an admission and an explanation (if there is a good one) may lead to a lighter sentence. But there will be some sentence, so you'll want to be prepared.

The sentence is always up to the judge, but recommendations can come from your probation officer. And many probation violations result in jail time. So if you're planning on admitting to the violation, you should be prepared to be taken into custody and face some time behind bars. The judge may also assign fines or additional probation conditions.

Adjudicating a Violation

If you deny the violation, the sentencing judge will hear both sides of your case to consider whether you actually violated any terms or conditions of your probation. But the standard of proof will be different than a criminal trial. The prosecuting attorney will need to prove a violation occurred by a "preponderance of the evidence," meaning the judge only needs to be convinced that it is more likely than not that you violated probation. (This is a lower bar than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard.)

Judges can consider the nature, type, and seriousness of the violation claimed, evidence supporting or countering the accusation, any history of prior probation violations, and other aggravating or mitigating circumstances. So in many ways, preparing for the probation violation is like preparing for a criminal trial -- you'll want to gather any evidence that supports your side and have an experienced criminal defense attorney present, if possible.

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