Today's discussion involves possible consequences of a probation violation in Los Angeles. Anyone accused of a probation violation should be represented by an attorney.
In misdemeanor and felony cases, if you are convicted and do not receive a "prison sentence," you will likely be placed on probation. Probation provides a second chance, an opportunity for rehabilitation, as well as a degree of supervision by either the court or a probation officer. Terms of probation generally include informal or formal supervision, fines, court fees, restitution, community labor, classes, jail, and the requirement to obey all laws and judicial orders.
Those probationers who make extraordinary efforts to complete their probation will oftentimes have opportunity for early termination of probation, and perhaps expungement and/or reduction of the case from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Unfortunately, many potential problems can impede success on probation, including, a new criminal case, lack of motivation, failure to follow court orders, family obligations, employment, school, and confusion about probation requirements. Depending on the circumstances, judges have a wide range of options to address a probation violation, including: revoking/terminating; revoking/reinstating; fines, community service, classes, and new punishment up to the maximum allowable under the law.
When a probationer picks up a new case, courts often revisit their decision of granting probation in the first place - especially if the new case is substantially-related to the probation case (i.e., petty theft probation case and a new violation of burglary). If a probationer is found to be in violation in this scenario, a judge may choose to terminate probation and impose jail. However, a creative defense attorney will likely investigate other possible alternatives, request that the judge reinstate the client on probation, and promote alternative solutions, such as counseling (if drug use is the underlying cause of the theft behavior, a live-in drug program for the probationer may be considered).
If motivational issues are the cause of a probation violation, judges will also re-evaluate the initial decision of sentencing the person to probation. This is also a point where a probation defense attorney will attempt to reinforce the importance of successful completion to the probationer, and the opportunities which may be available at a later time. A thorough attorney will also attempt to steer the probationer towards a productive goal-setting schedule, rather than assume the probationer will figure out timing of requirements on his or her own.
Failure to follow court orders, including failing to show up to court, pay fines, complete programs, are common violations. Again, a defense attorney can help a probationer develop a game plan to present to the court, to provide the judge a reason to consider alternatives to sentencing the probationer to significant jail. When judges consider additional chances on probation, they expect full compliance from that point forward.
When a probationer is struggling on probation because of scheduling issues, it is also important for the probationer to consult with his or her attorney. Judges will sometimes adjust the terms if the probationer comes to court immediately after a scheduling issue is discovered. When probationers wait until a court due date to explain inability to complete court orders on time, a judge is far likelier to impose jail, figuring that the probationer will continue to prioritize other activities unrelated to the court orders.
It is important to fully understand the terms and conditions of your probation. I find it effective to sit down with a client, and discuss scheduling issues prior to sentencing, to determine successful pathways to complete requirements on time. It is also helpful for probationers to calendar court requirements, so plans may be made in advance. Finally, I think it is important for an attorney to continue a dialog with each client on probation, to review progress, concerns, and possible options along the way.
You can read more about related issues at: Los Angeles Probation Violation Attorney.
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