Massachusetts Probation Violation Hearings
Following the resolution of a criminal case, whether through a plea bargain or guilty verdict at trial, the court may place a defendant on probation for a set period of time with certain terms and conditions to be followed. Probation may be ordered instead of sentencing an individual to jail/prison or in combination with a jail/prison sentence. So long as a probationer remains compliant with the terms and conditions of their probation, they will avoid being sentenced to jail/prison.
While probation is generally more favorable than a jail or prison sentence, being on probation is difficult. Generally, the probationer is assigned a probation officer who is responsible for supervising the individual and monitoring their compliance with the terms and conditions of probation. In addition to paying probation fees, remaining compliant with the terms and conditions of probation can be challenging and time-consuming.
What is a Probation Violation Hearing?
When a probationer fails to comply with the terms of probation, the probation department will issue a notice of violation and request a probation violation hearing with the court. There will then be an initial violation hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant violated the terms of their probation. Assuming the judge finds probable cause, the matter will then be scheduled for a final violation hearing. If the probationer is found in violation of probation, the court can impose additional conditions of probation, extend the term of probation, or sentence the defendant to jail/prison.
Some of the leading causes of probation violations in Massachusetts include:
- New Criminal Charges. Being arrested and/or charged with a new criminal offense while on probation is a violation of probation regardless of the outcome of the new charges.
- Failure to report. If the probationer is required to report to his/her probation officer at certain times a failure to report as scheduled will trigger a notice of probation violation.
- Failure to abide by specific probation conditions. A failure to abide by certain terms and conditions (e.g., remain drug and/or alcohol-free) or failing to complete a program ordered by the court (e.g., alcohol education classes; anger management) will result in a notice of violation of probation.
- Failure to pay probation fines and fees. Failing to pay probation fees or court-ordered fines may result in a probation violation.
- Other Violations. Failing to comply with a No Trespass Order, Stay Away Order, or No Contact Order may result in a notice of violation of probation.
What Happens During a Probation Violation Hearing?
Once the probation officer files a surrender notice and the court issues a warrant or summons to appear, there is an initial surrender hearing. At the initial hearing, the judge must determine whether there is probable cause of a probation violation. Upon a finding of probable cause and request from probation, the judge may hold the probationer without bail pending a final surrender hearing.
During the final surrender hearing, the probation department will offer evidence in support of the alleged probation violations. With the rules of evidence more relaxed at a probation hearing, the probation officer can offer police reports as evidence and may present witness testimony. The defense is permitted to cross-examine the witnesses and offer evidence on their behalf.
With a lower burden of proof for probation violations, probationers often waive their right to a final hearing and admit to a violation in consideration of a lighter sentence. Depending on the nature of the violation, the court may find the probationer in violation and maintain the same terms and conditions of probation. For more serious violations, the court can extend the term of probation, impose stricter and/or additional conditions, or revoke the defendant’s probation and send them to jail/prison.
Contact a Massachusetts Probation Violation Defense Attorney
Probation often requires defendants to attend meetings, complete community service hours, refrain from consuming alcohol and/or drugs, and pay probation fees and fines. Given the potential severe consequences of a probation violation, including jail/prison time, it is critical to seek the help of a knowledgeable and experienced probation violation defense attorney for such hearings. At Riccio Law, we have successfully represented a number of probationers at Massachusetts probation violation hearings. Contact our offices today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about our services.