Violation of Probation

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Probation In Colorado

In the state of Colorado, after a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty of an offense, they are often placed on probation.  Probation is a means by which the court retains jurisdiction of a defendant, and requires him to complete various conditions of focused toward treatment and rehabilitation in an effort to avoid more serious consequences like incarceration. Probation also ensures that defendants don't commit any new offenses.  Judges in Colorado have wide latitude regarding conditions that they can impose in conjunction with a criminal case.  The classic example is judges who order alcohol classes when a defendant is convicted of DUI or DWAI, however they can impose virtually any conditions that they decide are related to a defendants rehabilitation.  If you successfully complete the term of probation, then you are discharged and the court no longer has jurisdiction over you.  If you violate any terms of probation, you can be charged with Violation of Probation.

Violation of Probation

The decision of whether or not to charge someone with Violation of Probation is in the hands of the Probation department, and the prosecuting attorney.  Probation officers often do not want to file revocation complaints against defendants unless they have no other options.  These complaints can be filed based on something as simple as missed Urinalysis tests, or something as serious as a new criminal conviction.  Probation officers have an array of sanctions that they can impose prior to filing a violation, such as increased monitoring or requests to extend the length of probation. Because of this power that the probation officer holds, it is very important to attempt to maintain a positive relationship with your probation officer. If a complaint for violation of probation is filed, then the case is referred back to the trial judge who will hear the complaint.

Potential Penalties

Defendants who are charged with violating their probation are exposed to any potential penalties that they faced in their underlying charge.  For example, if you were on probation for a theft conviction which carried a maximum jail sentence of 1 year, the court could impose the 1 year jail sentence originally available to them, but no more.  Most judges do impose some sort of punitive sanction, because they view the case as one in which the defendant has already had a chance and has failed.  

The Role of the Prosecutor

The role of the prosecutor varies depending on your jurisdiction.  Some district attorneys (DAs) take a very active role in probation violation

 cases, while others defer to the probation officer supervising the defendant.  In either case, defense attorneys are able to represent people charged with violation of probation, and are able to negotiate with the DA or the probation officer to lessen the sentence.  If the parties agree on a stipulated sentence for the violation, the judge is bound to accept that agreement.

The Role of the Judge

The judge is the ultimate trier of facts on a complaint for violation of probation.  You are entitled to a testimonial hearing, which means that at least one witness, generally the probation officer, is required to testify under oath about the basis of the revocation complaint.  The defendant is allowed to put on their own witnesses to attempt to show why the complaint is untrue.  You do not have the right to a jury trial on a complaint for revocation of probation.  The trial judge hears the testimony and decides if probation has been violated.  If the judge determines that a violation occurred, or if a defendant admits to a violation, the judge imposes the new sentence.  This can be be as simple as revoking and reinstating probation without any additional consequences, it can involve additional jail time and/or condition then another period of probation, or it can include a jail sentence and termination of the case without additional probation.  Which route the judge opts for depends upon any statements or agreements from the parties to the case and the specific facts of the case.  Ultimately defendant almost always fare better in these cases when they are represented by competent counsel.
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DISCLAIMER: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact Hebets & McCallin, and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.