After a conviction, hearing the word “probation” can be a relief. Probation allows you to avoid jail time, leaving many offenders feeling extremely lucky, even if the probation period ends up being many months – or even a few years.
Once you have a few meetings with your probation officer, however, and read over the terms of your probation, that feeling of gratitude might wear off a bit. For many, meeting the terms of their probation can be difficult – in some cases, failing to make a payment or stepping into the wrong neighborhood may constitute a violation.
The specific rules you will be required to follow are different for everyone, but some things are the same. The terms of your probation will be laid out at sentencing (though you might want to ask your lawyer for clarification). They are determined based on the crime committed, the victims of the crime, whether restitution needs to be paid, and so on.
Some individuals may be told that they have to repay a retail location for stolen merchandise. Others may be barred from concerts or other environments that commonly have controlled substances present. Violating probation can even be as simple as failing to meet with your probation officer, a common term of probation.
No matter how someone allegedly violates probation, it can undo all of the hard work done by the offender to avoid jail time and turn his or her life around.
What Is the Process of a Probation Violation?
Anyone can report a probation violation: your probation officer, a cop – even your ex. Probation violations go through a different process than typical criminal offenses. You will have to appear at the County Probation Department and undergo a hearing. While the court is hearing your case, you may or may not be placed in jail. It all depends on your original offense, and whether or not your violation was a crime on its own.
If the court finds you guilty of violating your probation, Illinois law gives them a few different options for sentencing. The court could simply decide to let you continue serving your probation. Another option is to modify or lengthen your probation, restricting you further and for longer. Yet another option for the court is to revoke the probation and impose a new sentence, which could include jail time.
For simple probation violations, offenders may be placed in county jail. If the violation of probation was a criminal offense, it may involve harsher penalties in more serious facilities.
The laws in Illinois do not provide specific fine amounts or duration of incarceration due to the varying nature of probation violations. Often, the sentence is determined based on the offender’s original crime.
Let’s look at an example. Say you were on probation for a Class 3 felony like aggravated battery. As a part of your probation, you had to take drug tests or complete anger management courses, but you failed in one of these commitments. Because of this, you could be resentenced as if you had committed a class 3 felony (between 2-5 years in prison).
The bottom line? Even simple violations can lead to some pretty harsh penalties.
How Can I Defend against Probation Violation Charges?
If you have been charged with violating your probation, it is harder to prove your innocence in a county probation department than in a regular criminal case. With most criminal charges, the prosecution has to prove that you committed a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a probation violation hearing, however, they only have to prove that the likelihood that you violated probation is over 50%.
There is a lot of space between “over 50% chance” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
This information isn’t meant to scare you. It is just the way that the criminal justice system works in Illinois. The more you know about your case, the better the defense you can build, and the more likely you will be able to prove that you were not guilty of violating your probation.
Appropriate defense strategies rely heavily on the violation itself, and may include:
- Erroneous testing methods (if defendant failed a drug or alcohol test)
- Phone records and travel routes show defendant did everything in his or her power to avoid contact with victim (if defendant violated no-contact order)
- Defendant was being held in incarceration facility or was hospitalized and could not meet with probation officer
- Defendant does not have luxury items, and has done everything in their power to try and afford restitution, education, or fines
Again, more appropriate defenses may be available for different probation violations. For more information on how you can defend against these charges, talk to an Illinois criminal defense attorney.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.