Florida Statute §948.06 states that a probation violation can occur if the court believes that you have willfully and substantially violated the terms of your probation. Probation comes with terms and conditions set by the court, and they are expected to be followed by the defendant. This “contract” runs its course on thin ice with no room for error. A defendant should consider probation a contract between himself and the court for self-management.
Probation can be violated in numerous ways. Some of the common violations are :
- Missing a court or probation meeting
- Failing to pay fines or restitution
- Crossing state lines without permission
- Committing a new crime
- Failing a drug/alcohol test.
The burden of proof at a violation of probation hearing is relatively low. Unlike most crimes that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, such a high threshold does not apply in VOP hearings. The burden of proof applied at a VOP hearing is a preponderance of the evidence which applies a “more likely than not” analysis. A lower burden of proof can result in more convictions.
Unlike most criminal trials, hearsay evidence can meet the burden of proof. Hearsay is an out-of-court statement used to prove the truth of the matter asserted. The reason why hearsay evidence can be harmful at a VOP hearing is that hearsay can introduce information that is not obtained through personal knowledge or personal observation.
It is important to remember that under Florida Statute §948.06, you have no right to a jury trial at a VOP hearing. Although the United States Constitution and Article I Section 22 of the Florida Constitution provide all persons with a Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury in all criminal proceedings, a VOP hearing does not fall under the umbrella of criminal proceedings.
There is no right to a bond while waiting for the VOP hearing. Lastly, probation violations must be handled promptly because the matter will not resolve itself. Probation violations carry no statute of limitations.
The judge will decide the outcome once the violation is set for a hearing. The best result usually is to have the probation reinstated. Other outcomes are probable such as a modification of the probation or a total revocation. It is essential to evaluate all of the above factors before accepting an offer of probation as a resolution to your criminal case.