Defense Elements

Violation of Probation

Background - Ann Arbor, MI - Washtenaw County

When a person is sentenced to serve a probationary term for committing a criminal offense in Washtenaw County and fails to comply with one or more terms of probation, he/she will be ordered to appear before the sentencing Judge for a Show Cause hearing. The defendant's probation officer normally files a Petition to Show Cause in order to initiate this process. Sometimes the defendant has committed a new criminal offense while on probation, other times the defendant simply fails to comply with one or more of the requirements of probation. Either way, once the probation officer makes the decision to file a Violation of Probation against a person, it is normally very difficult to avoid jail or prison time without the assistance of strong legal defense in Washtenaw County. A Violation of Probation can occur either in the Washtenaw County Circuit Court or any of the local District Courts, depending on the nature of the underlying conviction.

At the Show Cause hearing, the defendant will have to decide whether to plead guilty to the alleged Violation of Probation or dispute the charge. Although a Violation of Probation is not a new criminal charge, if a person pleads guilty to violating probation or is found guilty of a probation violation by the Judge, he/she will be re-sentenced on the original case. A person guilty of a probation violation will normally receive a much stiffer penalty than he/she did on the original conviction. Being charged with a Violation of Probation is very serious and can very quickly result in loss of liberty due to jail or prison time.

If the person charged with a Violation of Probation in Washtenaw County Circuit Court decides not to plead guilty to the charge but to contest it, he/she has a right to a hearing before the Judge to challenge the allegation. The person also has the right to be represented by a defense attorney. The Judge will usually only give the person between 2-4 weeks to prepare for the probation violation hearing, so it is essential that qualified defense counsel be retained to be properly prepared for the violation of probation hearing. Judges that typically handle felony Violation of Probation charges in Washtenaw County are Judge Donald Shelton, Judge David Swartz, Judge Melinda Morris, and Judge Archie Brown.

Once a person appears at the Violation of Probation hearing, his/her defense attorney will be able to challenge the testimony presented by the prosecuting attorney's witnesses in order to challenge the violation of probation charge. The burden of proof at a Violation of Probation hearing is much lower than a trial on the original criminal charge and only requires proof by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that it is more likely than not that the defendant violated his/her probationary condition(s). As a result, a Violation of Probation is much easier for prosecutor's to prove and requires a skilled defense attorney to challenge the charge. The Violation of Probation hearing is similar to a trial but there is not right to a jury trial.

Sometimes, defense counsel can negotiate a plea resolution with the prosecuting attorney and/or the probation officer in order to avoid prison or jail time on a Violation of Probation. In Washtenaw County, the probation department normally wants to see the defendant become a productive member of society and will try to work with defendants they believe are trying their best. However, good luck and wishful thinking are typically not enough to avoid jail or prison time on a Violation of Probation charge. Obtaining representation from a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney in Washtenaw County is vital to properly handling a Violation of Probation charge.

The possible penalty for violating probation depends on the nature and seriousness of the underlying charge and whether it is a misdemeanor or felony. When a defendant receives probation for a serious felony charge and then fails to comply with the terms of probation, it can be very likely that a Violation of Probation will result in a prison sentence. When a defendant receives probation for a less serious felony charge and fails to comply with the terms of probation, it is likely that he/she will serve jail time in the Washtenaw County jail for violating probation. Either way, there is no time to take chances when facing a Violation of Probation on a felony charge.

The normal timeline on a felony Violation of Probation charge is between 3 weeks to 3 months. During this time a Show Cause hearing will take place and a Violation of Probation hearing will take place. When a person is found guilty of violating probation, a Sentencing hearing will also occur. These three hearings are usually a part of most probation violation cases.