This article covers the basics of probation, probation violation, and punishments for violating probation in North Carolina, including:
- Common ways people violate their probation and the consequences when charged with doing so,
- Your rights and what you can expect when heading back to court for a probation violation hearing,
- The penalties and consequences of violating probation, and your odds for a second chance.
Probation might seem like a great deal. You get out of prison and get to continue on with your life. However, there are many conditions you must abide by in order to stay on probation, and if you fail to meet them, you might find yourself right back in prison. Still, if you do violate the terms of your probation, an attorney may be able to help.
What Are The Most Common Ways People Violate The Terms Of Their Probation?
The most common ways individuals fail to meet the requirements of their probation often involve drugs or money.
Failed Drug Tests
It says volumes about the mental health crisis we are witnessing in America right now that we are putting known drug users on probation, not giving them any help, telling them they cannot use the drugs they have been dependent on, and then punishing them when they fail their drug tests.
Failure To Pay Court Fees
Failing to pay back the court-appointed attorney, not paying fines, or not being able to pay on the schedule that the judge has ordered are all frequent violations.
What Should I Expect, Step By Step, If I Am Charged With A Probation Violation?
The exact consequences of violating your probation depend on what the original order of probation says.
If the order says “Arrest If Violated”:
- You will be rearrested, booked in jail, and given a court date.
- You will then go in front of a judge who will ask you if you would like a court-appointed attorney if you do not have one.
- After that session, they will schedule a hearing date. If you do not get, cannot pay, or are not given a bond, then you will remain in jail until the hearing date.
But not all probation violations require an arrest – some will just serve you with a court date and summons. In these cases, you need to go to the court date to address the violation, and if you do not show up to that court date, an order for arrest will be issued.
Regardless of the procedure, your attorney will be talking with your probation officer throughout the process. Together, they will go through the violation report and discuss possible defenses and other ways to minimize the consequences – as there might be some stipulations or an agreement that can be made to further probation, terminate it, or other remedies that might help resolve the violation.
If I Am Arrested On The Spot, What Offenses Are Considered Bondable?
For the most part, if the probation officer feels the need to file a violation, it will be for an arrestable offense, and you will most likely be arrested whenever you are served with the paperwork. However, not all probation violations are arrestable, so in other cases, all you will be given is a court summons.
Sometimes you may have a bond set at the initial hearing in front of the magistrate. Generally speaking though, if you are being arrested for a probation violation, they will keep you in jail until you have a hearing in front of a district or superior court judge, depending on the level of the original offense.
This will be relatively soon after your arrest, and while in some rare instances they will not issue a bond, most violations do get a bond once they go in front of a district or superior court judge.
How Soon Will I Have To Go To Court After A Probation Violation In North Carolina?
After being charged with a violation of probation, the first court date is usually within 30 days of being served. If you are being held in jail, they try to have it as soon as possible, which could be within two weeks or less.
Do I Have The Right To An Attorney At A Probation Revocation Hearing? Do I Need One?
You will have a right to an attorney at any probation revocation hearing. If there is any jail time pending then you most certainly want an attorney. After all, if the judge decides to revoke your probation, you will return to prison.
Fortunately, there are a lot of other remedies available that can be discussed with the DA’s office or the probation office to help keep you on probation. These exist to help prevent the violation from interrupting your ability to continue putting the charge behind you. That is, after all, what the state wants as well.
In any situation, it’s important to remember that if you go to court without an attorney, it will be much harder to get a positive outcome and avoid the worst case scenario.
What Happens At The Court Hearing For A Probation Violation?
At the court hearing for a probation violation, the judge will first ask if you agree to the violation report (the equivalent of pleading guilty) or if you want to have a trial on the violation report.
In the latter case, you would have a trial, quite similar to a regular trial. There will be witnesses from a probation office explaining your violation, and then you can present evidence arguing that there was no violation at all.
If a violation has been determined to be true in the trial, the judge will proceed to sentence you. This means deciding what consequences will occur in response to the violation, and there are a lot of different options the judge can choose from.
If you were able to prove that there was no violation, then the case will be thrown out and you can continue with your probation as usual.
Is The Sentencing Decision Solely Up To The Judge Or Is The Prosecution Involved? What Role Will My Probation Officer Play At This Point?
The district attorney’s office (the prosecution) is very involved at this stage of the probation violation process. They can either push for harsher sentencing and remedies to the violation, or they could work something out with your defense attorney to have a plan of action to resolve the violation.
Ultimately, however, it is the judge’s decision that counts.
Nevertheless, the judge will put a lot of weight on what the probation officer argues, so the probation officer also plays a vital role in determining the outcome. They are often the sole witness for the state, and so are often the key party involved in determining the outcome of the trial as well.
What Are The Potential Penalties And Consequences For Violating My Probation If It Is Not Revoked?
If your probation is not revoked as the result of a violation, there are several other possible outcomes.
The Judge could:
- Sentence you to what is sometimes called a “quick dip”, which is just several days in jail.
- Allow the probation to continue without any punishment.
- Impose a fine.
- Impose a specific program that you would have to complete, such as a Drug Alcohol Recovery Treatment (DART) program.
There are other types of programs in North Carolina, which are confinement programs, meaning you would go to jail for 30, 60, or 90 days depending on the program. In fact, if you have been arrested for a drug offense, you will often go through such a confinement drug program instead of having your probation revoked altogether.
What Happens If I Violate Probation On A 2nd Chance / Diversion Program?
A diversion program (often called 1996 or 1995) means the court has assigned you to probation which allows you a lesser sentence or case dismissal upon your successful completion of the program.
If you violate your probation while in such a program, the judge could do one of several things…
- The judge may ask why you deserve to stay in the program.
- They might have the violation diverted and allow you to continue in the program with a warning.
- The judge could revoke that program and sentence you as guilty of the original crime. (This could therefore be a complete revocation of the benefits that that second chance or diversion program offered.)
What Happens If My Probation Is Revoked?
If your probation is ultimately revoked, then the term of years or months that the original judge laid out for you to serve in probation will have to be served in confinement. At that point, there is very little you can do to prevent returning to prison to serve out the rest of your original sentence.
For more information on Handling Probation Violation Cases In NC, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (252) 371-0127 today.