Probation Violations

The Florida Department of Corrections is responsible for supervising nearly 150,000 offenders every year who are on community supervision, which includes probation, conditional release, controlled release, administrative control, work release and parole. (Although Florida technically doesn’t have parole anymore except for cases dating back to 1983, there have been an increase in parolees in Florida attributable to other states transferring supervision duties).

Community supervision is a type of state supervision that imposes certain conditions on an offender in lieu of incarceration or after release. F.S. 948.001-90 gives Florida judges a great deal of discretion in deciding the terms of community supervision. These can include community service, educational sessions, maintaining contact with probation offices, drug testing or attending drug and alcohol counseling.

In Florida, probation is considered a privilege. It’s not a right. At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale probation violation lawyers know that when someone fails to abide by specified terms, it can mean big trouble.

Sanctions for probation violations in Florida can include:

  • Judge imposes additional requirements and conditions (i.e., drug testing, more frequent probation meetings, restrictions on where you can go and when);
  • Judge extends the length of your probation;
  • Another stint in jail or prison.

Some of the most common types of probation violations include:

  • New offenses or violations of law;
  • Positive drug tests;
  • Failure to complete drug treatment programs;
  • Failure to complete batterer’s intervention programs;
  • Failure to pay fines;
  • Associating with persons you are required to avoid;
  • Missed appointments or reports.
Violation Proceedings

If your probation officer becomes aware of a violation, he or she will file what is called an “Affidavit of Violation” with the court, and you will be required to appear before a judge to answer to this alleged violation. You might receive a summons or there could be a warrant issued for your arrest.

The affidavit is a sworn statement that details why the officer had reasonable grounds to believe defendant committed a violation.

In many cases where an arrest warrant is issued, defendants will be placed on a “no bond” status, which will require him or her to remain in custody until a bond hearing.

After that, there will be an arraignment on the violation charge at which time the court will set a date for an evidentiary hearing where the prosecutor will have the burden of proving a violation.

It’s best to consult with an experienced probation violation attorney in Fort Lauderdale as soon as you receive notice of the accusation that you violated probation.

The reason for the violation will make a big difference in the action the judge takes. The commission of a new crime is going to be treated differently than being an hour late to an appointment with your probation officer. Nonetheless, remember that the judge has a great deal of discretion. Incarceration is usually always on the table when it comes to the list of penalties for probation violation, so it’s important you make sure your rights are adequately represented.

Proving a Probation Violation

In order to establish that you violated your probation, the state will need to prove that your violation was both:

  • Substantial
  • Willful

As was outlined in the 1992 Fla. 4th DCA case of Steiner v. State, trial courts can revoke probation or community control if the state can prove by the greater weight of the evidence that a defendant both willfully and substantially violated a specific condition of the sentence.

A determination of whether a violation was substantial and willful is done on a case-by-case basis, and it’s the state that always bears the burden of proof via competent evidence. To give you an idea, in the past, Florida courts have determined that the following were NOT sufficient evidence of a willful and substantial violation:

  • Being in close proximity to legal drugs;
  • Being arrested without substantive proof that a new offense had been committed;
  • Not producing proof of employment or pay stubs (where state failed to prove defendant had not been diligently searching for work);
  • Failure to return to the state because his/ her car broke down;
  • Not answering the door during a home visit by the probation officer.

F.S. 948.06(3) says that revocation of probation may be appropriate when the defendant violates the order in a “material respect.”

Here again, courts have broad discretion in ascertaining whether there is enough proof of a willful and substantial violations. Courts have held that so long as defendant makes reasonable efforts to comply with the condition in question, the violation can’t be considered “willful.”

If you have been accused of violating felony or misdemeanor probation in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in South Florida, we can help you weigh your legal options.

Contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (877)-ARREST-0 (277-3780).