The most common way that people violate their probation terms is simply by failing to report. People are given many conditions of their probation, and the most basic one is usually to report in person once a month to a probation officer. There’s also a monthly probation supervision fee that they have to pay, which is usually around $60 per month. In addition, they may have fines or court costs that they’re paying off. It is not uncommon for people to come up short on the funds to pay for these things and to fall behind on payments as a result.
When that happens, the probation officer (whose job depends in part on probation generating enough money to fund the probation department and make money for the counties) will tell the probationer, “Don’t come in here next month without that money or I’m going to revoke you.” Then, the next month comes around and they remember what the probation officer said, but they are once again short on money. Because they are scared of being revoked by the probation officer, they don’t report at all, and they get revoked as a result of that. That’s the easiest way to be revoked on probation, and it’s a favorite tactic of the probation officers who take advantage of the fact that they can intimidate a person into failing to report. Once the probation officer files a revocation, that person may be sent to jail or prison. For lazy probation officers, this is a good way to get out of work because they no longer have to continue supervising that person. However, an experienced Fort Worth probation violations lawyer may be able to assist. To learn more or discuss what options may be at your disposal consult with the experienced defense attorneys with our firm today.
A lot of probation officers will use this tactic to scare people into not reporting so that they can revoke their probation. Sadly, there are some people working for the probation department who care more about having an easy job than about helping the people who are on probation. However, people need to remember that America has a constitution that states that people cannot be imprisoned for a civil debt. That was one of the fundamental principles upon which our country was founded. People in Europe used to be sent to debtor’s prison for failing to pay their debts, and we decided that that’s not fair. People should not be put in prison because they have not paid their debts. And if you do go to prison, then you certainly can’t work to pay your debts, so it doesn’t even accomplish anything. It’s unconstitutional for someone to be put in jail for failure to pay a debt. If one of our clients is on probation, we emphasize that they should report no matter what. Even if they can’t pay what they owe, they should still report. They cannot be sent to jail for failure to pay.
However, if someone was spending money on drugs or something else when they could have been using that money to pay their probation fees, then that’s different. But if the simple fact is that they don’t have enough money left over after paying for their rent, car payment, insurance, food, etc., then the judge cannot and will not revoke their probation. In 34 years of practice, I have never seen anyone’s probation revoked for failure to pay some amount that they owe, so long as the reason they didn’t pay was that they simply couldn’t afford to. When there is a motion to revoke filed against someone, they often think it’s already over and that their probation has been revoked. However, this is not true. Just because a motion to revoke probation has been filed, does not mean that probation has already been revoked.
Unfortunately, sometimes people will hear that a motion to revoke has been filed, and they quit reporting and doing what they’re supposed to do because they think the damage has already been done. But by doing that, they are causing the actual revocation of their probation by failing to report (rather than simply failing to pay). Anytime there’s a motion filed asking the judge to revoke probation, the person on probation has a right to representation and to a hearing.
Now, this hearing is in front of a judge (not a jury), and the prosecution has to prove that the person committed a violation of probation. The prosecution has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the person who was placed on probation violated one of the conditions of their probation. So, if one side has evidence that a person violated the probation, and the defendant has evidence that they did not violate the probation, then whichever side has a little bit more evidence than the other will win. This is considered an administrative hearing, so the rules are different than they would be for a criminal trial. A person has a right to representation, and their attorney needs to know the particular rules that apply in administrative probation revocation hearings. We win many of these hearings and are therefore able to keep our clients from being revoked or sent to jail or prison for an alleged violation of probation.
It’s very important to have a Fort Worth probation violation lawyer at these hearings. Specifically, it’s important to have an attorney who knows the ins and outs and the particular rules that apply in these hearings. Now, persons on probation can also be revoked for what we call technical violations. Technical violations include things like failing to complete a counseling program or community service hours. Sometimes there are other conditions of probation, such as drug testing or an alcohol monitoring device. In those cases, a positive drug test or evidence of alcohol consumption would be considered a violation.
There are also violations of probation that are not technical, which we call new offenses. Any person who’s on probation is ordered to not commit any violations of the law, so if they commit a new crime or it’s alleged that they committed a new crime, then that’s also a violation of probation. But again, they have a right to a hearing. At that hearing, the prosecution has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that they committed this new offense. Our Fort Worth probation violation attorneys are often able to win the hearings by showing that they did not commit a new criminal offense.
There are different ways to commit alleged violations of probation, but even when that happens, probationers have a right to a hearing. If the hearing is won, then their probation will not be revoked and they will be able to maintain their freedom. So, it’s important to have expert representation.