Penalties for Breaking Probation on a Felony

By Jess Kroll

Probation allows the convicted individual to serve a period of time, usually longer than any prison sentence, free from imprisonment but with certain restrictions. In essence, probation is both a mercy and a test, granting conditional freedom instead of a harsher punishment and examining if the convict can live rightly for that time.


Once it has been established that probation has been violated, the judge has several options, including continuing probation without extra punishment, adding extra conditions, extending probation period, adding a fine, ordering a period of community service or revoking probation.. Of these potential punishments, the most serious is to revoke probation, as this results in incarceration. In some states, the prison sentence lasts for the remainder of the probational period, while others may result in the maximum number of years possible for the original crime. The exact period is decided by the judge. For felonies, which carry a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison, no less than one year will be served for probation that is revoked.

Violation Hearing

Probation violation hearings are conducted without a jury, leaving the verdict and sentencing entirely up to the judge. In the case of a simple violation of probation, the prosecution must provide a preponderance of evidence that a violation occurred. However, if probation was broken as the result of the defendant committing another crime, that crime must be proven to the criminal trial standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Leniency in Violation Hearings

Since probation is already seen as a lenient, favorable punishment, a judge may view any violation as an insult. Since probation is a test of the probationer's ability to live outside of prison and is served over a longer time than a prison sentence, violations typically result in a longer period of imprisonment than just a continuous jail sentence without probation. Essentially, a probation violation demonstrates that the convicted individual is not deserving of any further mercy from the court

Severity of Violation

In a violation hearing, and any subsequent sentencing, the judge considers not only the conditions of the original crime and sentence but also the severity of the violation. Failure to meet with a probation officer, or other similar violation of the technical or noncriminal terms of probation, is considered an administrative violation. Such violations may result in no punishment or a small one, such as community service. This is dependent upon how many times the defendant fails to uphold these administrative conditions. More serious, substantive violations, such as committing another crime while on probation, result in more severe punishments, revoking probation and serving up to the maximum penalty for the original crime followed by any sentence for the newer conviction.

About the Author

Jess Kroll has been writing since 2005. He has contributed to "Hawaii Independent," "Honolulu Weekly" and "News Drops," as well as numerous websites. His prose, poetry and essays have been published in numerous journals and literary magazines. Kroll holds a Master of Fine Arts in writing from the University of San Francisco.

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