Your Legal Defense for Probation Violations in Florida
If you are accused of violating your probation, the consequences can be severe. If you fail to meet any of the probation conditions or fail to appear at a probation office, you are considered to violate your probation conditions. However, recent changes in the law permit less severe sentences. The program is known as the ‘Alternative Sanctioning Program.” If you are accused of violating your probation, you can be looking at that harsh sentencing. Violating probation involves an arrest on the VOP warrant with no bond. With the new program in effect, a judge can lower the punishment on a violation when some conditions are met. To qualify for alternative sanctioning, you must be a low-risk violator or a moderate risk violator. Once this is established, the alternative sanctioning program puts a cap on VOP punishment of 90 days in jail. There are punishments on infringements, such as a positive urine test.
Standard of Proof
At the hearing, the prosecution must prove by the “greater weight of the evidence” that a defendant committed a willful and substantial violation. The state must then present competent evidence enough to support a finding of guilt. If the state cannot meet these standards, a trial court may not revoke probation. If a defendant makes reasonable efforts to comply with a probation condition, a violation cannot be deemed “willful.” The vast majority of VOP in Florida include new criminal offenses, failed drug tests, failure to meet financial obligations, failure to complete court-ordered programs, and missed appointments.
Positive Drug Test Violations
A positive drug test violation accounts for a large percentage of all violations filed. In violation cases involving positive drug tests, the state has the burden of proving by substantial, competent evidence that an illegal drug was present in a defendant’s body. The prosecution cannot present the testimony of a probation officer to establish a positive drug test. However, a trial may revoke probation based on a probation officer’s statement on a positive drug result where the officer is certified by the state to administer the tests.
Failures to Complete Drug Treatment Programs
Failure to complete a substance abuse program is a willful violation if the failure can be shown to be the fault of the accused. On the other hand, a finding of a breach will not stand if there is sufficient time remaining in the probationary period for completion of the program.
Failure to Pay Financial Obligations
Non-payment of court costs, restitution, fines, drug testing, and other fees is a basis for probation violations in Florida. Florida Statutes say the burden is on the probationer to prove his inability to pay. The trial court is obligated to make a finding that the probationer can pay. The court must determine that the person has or could pay but has willfully refused to do so.
Missed Appointments or Reports
A single missed appointment with a probation officer, with a valid explanation, is not sufficient to demonstrate willful and substantial noncompliance with probation. Failure to file one monthly report does not constitute a willful and substantial violation of probation. If the state proves that the failure was intentional, a finding of violation will be sustained.
What Are the Penalties For Violating Probation?
If a judge finds you have committed the violation, there are three options a judge may impose:
- Reinstate your Probation
- Modify your Probation Sentence
- Revoke Probation and impose jail time
- If your probation is revoked, the judge can impose the maximum sentence for the charge that you are placed initially on probation.
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