In Virginia, a term of probation is routinely ordered by the courts for criminal convictions. If you are convicted of a crime, probation provides tools to help with the probationer’s rehabilitation, but if you are accused of violating probation, you’ll need the help of a Roanoke probation attorney.
Fines and prison terms are only two parts of a sentence imposed by judges in the Virginia criminal justice system. Thousands of convicted criminal offenders have also been sentenced to probation in this state.
According to the Virginia Department of Corrections, as of January 2020, more than 60,000 convicted offenders were serving probation in Virginia. In fact, most of the people who are convicted of crimes in Virginia can expect to be placed on probation.
While a good criminal defense lawyer will always try to have a criminal charge dismissed or have a defendant found not guilty by a jury, if you are found guilty, probation will most likely be imposed as part of the sentence.
How Does Someone Satisfy the Terms and Conditions of Probation?
For example, if the state’s evidence is persuasive and your conviction is inevitable, your defense lawyer may negotiate a plea deal that includes probation. If you’re prosecuted for a crime, consider carefully your defense lawyer’s recommendations about pleas and plea bargains.
If you are sentenced to probation, a judge has decided to impose certain conditions that must be met pending the completion of the probation. You can live at home, work or attend school, and meet the terms of probation by behaving responsibly and avoiding legal trouble.
What Are the Usual Conditions of Probation?
A violation of probation happens when a probationer violates the specific conditions and terms of probation set forth by the court. Specific terms and conditions depend on the details of each crime and conviction, but for most probationers in Virginia, the conditions of probation include:
1. Reporting on a regular basis to a probation officer
2. Finding and/or maintaining steady employment
3. Not committing new crimes
4. Not leaving Virginia without permission
5. Regular alcohol and/or drug testing
6. Paying restitution to victims
7. Performing community service
What Can Happen if Someone Violates Probation?
Violating the terms of probation is a serious crime in Virginia. If you are accused of violating probation, the state will move swiftly to ask a judge to revoke your probation and any suspended sentence.
If a judge determines that you have in fact violated the conditions of your probation, the court may:
1. Revoke probation and order you to serve the rest of your suspended sentence in jail or prison
2. Add stricter conditions and terms to the original probation terms
3. Order additional lengths of time to serve on probation
4. Order the payment of a previously suspended fine
A Chance to “Make Things Right”
Probation in Virginia stresses individual accountability while providing a workable alternative to a jail or prison sentence. Probation isn’t for everyone. Some offenders feel they cannot complete all the requirements of probation and would rather just serve time in jail or prison.
If you are ordered to serve probation, follow the conditions and the terms of probation spelled out by the court. It’s an opportunity that the court has given you to “make things right” and provides tools for rehabilitation. You do not want to be accused of a “VOP” – a violation of probation.
What Are the Most Common Violations of Probation?
A violation of probation is a criminal offense in Virginia. If you are on probation and you are charged with a VOP, what happens next? Can you avoid serving jail or prison time if you are found guilty of a probation violation? Listed here are the most common violations of probation:
1. Not appearing in court or reporting to a probation officer as scheduled
2. Not paying court-ordered fines, restitution, or fees
3. Not performing community service or completing court-ordered counseling or treatment
4. Failing to find or keep employment
5. Unapproved travel out-of-state
6. Any new arrest or criminal charge
What Happens at a VOP Hearing?
If you are accused of violating probation, a violation of probation hearing will be scheduled. You should be represented at that hearing by a skilled criminal defense attorney who has considerable experience representing probationers in VOP cases.
At your VOP hearing, a prosecutor must demonstrate that you violated probation intentionally – or through negligence or carelessness – in order to win a VOP conviction against you. Your defense attorney will work aggressively to cast doubt on the prosecutor’s case.
What Are a Probationer’s Rights at a VOP Hearing?
You’ve already been convicted of a crime if you’re serving probation, so if you are charged with VOP, you won’t enjoy the same rights as a defendant who is still presumed innocent. There is no right to a jury trial, for example, on a VOP charge. VOP cases are heard and decided by judges.
Moreover, the state does not have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you are guilty of violating probation. If the state can prove with a “preponderance” of the evidence that you violated probation – meaning it is “more likely than not” that you’re guilty – you’ll be convicted.
Hearsay is not allowed in most criminal cases, but hearsay is allowed as evidence at violation of probation hearings in Virginia.
How Will a VOP Attorney Help?
A good violation of probation attorney will review the prosecution’s evidence against you, question any witnesses, and in most cases will advocate aggressively to persuade the judge that no violation of probation took place.
If you’re charged with VOP for failing an alcohol or drug test, your family law attorney may challenge the results of the test or the credentials of whoever administered the test. If you owe the court for unpaid fees or fines, your attorney might be able to negotiate a more reasonable payment plan.
When Your Freedom is at Stake
Probation is your privilege in Virginia – not your right. Take advantage of that privilege if you are sentenced to probation, and adhere strictly to the terms and conditions.
But if you are charged with violating probation, do not try to face the charge by yourself. The laws are too complicated, and far too much – including your freedom – will be at stake. Let the right Roanoke probation attorney defend you and bring the matter to its best possible outcome.