As an alternative to sentencing a defendant to a prison term, a judge could possibly choose to sentence a defendant to probation. Probation releases a defendant back into the community, but the defendant does not have the same degree of freedom as a regular citizen. Probation comes with conditions that restrict a probationer’s behavior, and if the probationer violates one of those conditions, the court may very well revoke or modify the probation.
Courts typically grant probation for first-time or low-risk offenders. Statutes determine when probation is practical, nevertheless it is up to the sentencing judge to figure out whether or not to essentially allow probation.
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Even though sentencing judges have this latitude, they must still remain within the statutory limits when allowing probation. By way of example, a judge can’t impose probation for a period longer than the maximum sentence prescribed by statute.
Probation has three primary goals:
- To rehabilitate the defendant
- To protect society from further criminal conduct by the defendant
- To protect the rights of the victims
Once a judge has granted probation, the matter moves into the jurisdiction of probation officers, who monitor the probationer’s compliance with the terms of the probation.
Conditions are an inherent part of probation. Judges set conditions in order to meet the goals for probation stated above. A probationer needs to comply with these conditions or else the court may possibly impose a jail sentence or add more restrictive conditions to their probation.
Courts in most cases have a good deal of discretion when setting probation conditions, nevertheless that doesn’t mean that judges can set whatever terms they want. Probation conditions must be reasonable. This means that the conditions can never be vindictive, vague, overbroad or arbitrary. In addition, the conditions must be related to the protection of the public. Also, in cases where a judge wishes to impose special conditions, those conditions must relate to the nature of the transgression that the probationer committed.
Judges set the conditions, nevertheless probation officers enforce them. Any time a probation officer finds probable cause to believe that the probationer has violated the terms of the probation, the judge will likely either change the terms of the probation or revoke the probation and impose a prison sentence.
Because the probationer’s freedom is at stake, however, the probationer has to receive some procedural due process before a court revokes their probation. While the verdict to revoke probation, just like the ruling to grant probation, is at the court’s discretion, the court has to go through a number of procedural requirements before revoking probation. The probationer dealing with revocation doesn’t have as many legal rights during revocation proceedings as they do through the original criminal trial, however.
In order to revoke probation, a court has to provide the probationer with notice of the proposed revocation and conduct a hearing on the matter. The probationer has a right to testify at the hearing, present supporting witnesses, and confront the witnesses against them. The probationer also has a right to a neutral hearing body, and needs to receive a written statement containing the reasons for revoking probation.
If there is sufficient evidence, a violation of even a single condition is able to bring about revocation of probation. The violated condition has to be valid, however. In cases where a condition is later found to be unreasonable then violation of that condition will not constitute grounds for revocation.
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If you are accused of violating the terms of your parole or probation or have questions regarding a potential probation offense, make sure you call the Most Respected Houston Criminal Defense Attorney the instant for a free of charge initial consultation.