Penalties for Breaking Probation on a Felony

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Probation violation is a serious offense. It can cause you to be responsible for paying significant fines and can cause your probation to be revoked so that you are immediately sent to jail. Penalties depend a lot on how, why and the number of times that you broke the terms of your probation.

When you have been found guilty of a crime and are placed on probation by the court, there are certain rules you are required to follow. You may be required to check in on a regular basis with your probation officer to affirm that you are complying with the rules, which can include restrictions on usage of drugs and/or alcohol, requirements to go to counseling, working hours in community service, restrictions on where you can go and with whom you can associate, and restrictions on owning a weapon. You may be required to submit to regular drug tests, go to a rehabilitation program or be forbidden to leave the state in which you reside.

What Does Felony Probation Mean?

If you have been convicted of a felony and are granted probation, that is known as "felony probation.” This is typically a longer period of time than probation from being convicted of a misdemeanor and generally lasts three to five years.

While probation is a more palatable choice than going to prison, if you have been offered felony probation as a deal, you should be aware of the full terms and conditions of that type of probation. In addition, you should consider what it means to be assigned a probationary period of that length, however long it endures, and the losses of freedom associated with probation. For example, costs associated with your probationary supervision have to be borne by you. If you fail to pay those costs, your wages can be garnished to pay for them. You may be prohibited from associating with certain people or groups of people, or from traveling out of state or moving to another state. Doing so can be a violation of your probation and may land you in jail. You can be subject to search of your person, home or property at any time.

What Is Probation?

Understanding felony probation is contingent on comprehending probation itself. Probation is a sanction ordered by the court that allows someone who has been convicted of a crime to return to society under the supervision of a probation officer. During this time, the individual will be monitored. The person's probation and ability to remain out of jail may be contingent on certain rules laid out by a judge.

Probation could be handed down as a sentencing option in tandem with other penalties by a judge. These could include incarceration, fines, community service or other sanctions. In many instances, probation also is associated with mandatory counseling, drug or alcohol addiction treatment and weapons restrictions. The idea behind probation is to allow low-risk individuals to stay out of jail while also protecting public safety. Many advocates feel that this is a good way to rehabilitate those who might have merely had a misstep resulting in their arrest.

Probation officers are tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of their charges, ensuring that these individuals meet all of the stipulations laid out by the judge. They may administer drug tests, conduct regular or surprise home visits, organize meetings and generally assess the risks of the offending party. In many instances, probation officers work hand-in-hand with social organizations and community groups to help those who have been arrested to get back on their feet and reduce the likelihood of future run-ins with the law.

Terms of Probation

The length of probation and the specific requirements vary depending on what state you are in and the type of crime for which you were convicted. When the terms of your probation are broken, you are in violation of the decision handed down by the court. Probation is designed to protect the community from potential harm you may cause, and breaking it is a severe violation. Penalties depend a lot on how, why and the number of times you violated the terms of your probation.

At best, this can result in a warning, and the probationer being given another chance to walk the right path and stay within the probation terms. Or, it can result in a hearing resulting in new fines, an extension of your probationary period and other restrictions. In many instances, a violation of the probation term can result in immediate incarceration. In addition, severely and repeatedly violating the terms of probation, or the perpetration of a new crime, can result in complete revocation of your probation. In any of these instances, you risk being sent immediately to prison to serve out whatever term the court deems necessary. That prison term can be based on your original crime, any new, compounding crimes, and the number, type and severity of the probation violations.

Probation Vs. Parole

Probation differs from parole, though the terms might be used interchangeably by those who aren’t familiar with them. Probation usually occurs before, and often instead of, incarceration. On the other hand, parole signifies an early release from prison. In both instances, your behavior may be monitored and your compliance with both the law and certain other requirements laid out for you by a judge will dictate whether you could face additional punishment.

Prisoners may be released on parole either by the decision of a parole board or under certain conditions laid out by a judge. Parolees may be subject to various levels of supervision during their parole, including required reporting to a parole board or officer. In addition, they may be supervised on a more limited basis, likely because they have complied with all restrictions placed on them during their parole. The conditions of parole are highly individual and depend on the individual’s crime, criminal history and behavior while on parole.

Violations of Probation

The aim of probation is to ensure that the community is safe from any further damage or danger for the duration of your probation. The terms and length of probation depend on state laws and the nature of the crime committed. Some probationary terms are shorter, from one to three years, but some probation terms can last for the rest of your life, as you will be viewed as continuing potential threat to the community where you live forever. Crimes that can result in lifetime probation include drug-related offenses or certain types of sex crimes. You must comply with those terms, however difficult, for as long as you remain on probation, even if it is for the rest of your life.

Violating or breaking probation is a very serious offense. It can cause you to be responsible for paying additional, significant fines, and can cause your probation to be revoked so that you are immediately sent to jail.

Is Probation Violation a Felony?

Violating probation is typically a new and separate crime and will therefore be taken very seriously by a court of law. If you fail a drug test or miss a meeting with your probation officer, or you don’t pay restitution that you are required to pay, it could result in only a warning being issued, but that depends on whether it is a repeated problem and how serious the violation is. If you break the law while on probation, you may also be charged with a new, separate crime.

Probation Violation and Jail Time

You may or may not have to go to jail for violating your probation. But if your probation is revoked, you will have to do time. The term can depend on a number of factors, including the intentions and severity of the violation and the number of violations. The judge may require you to serve a brief time in jail or may completely revoke your probation and require you to serve out the remainder of the probationary period in jail instead. So, it can be a few days to a few months to several years. It really depends on both the circumstances and the original sentence you received.

Felony Convictions and Probation

A felony conviction does not always mean jail time, particularly if it is a first offense. In many instances, probation could be ordered if your case is properly presented and the crime is appropriate for an immediate return to society. Obtaining a lawyer who is experienced in fighting for the rights of the accused is a popular choice, as they will know how to mount a defense on your behalf that aims to preserve as many of your rights as possible. You also have the opportunity to defend yourself or opt to work with a public defender.

A felony becomes a part of your permanent record, which can negatively affect your freedom for the rest of your life. Felons are not allowed to vote or to get and keep firearms. Felons can have difficulty getting a loan or securing housing because of their criminal record. Finding gainful employment can also be a challenge. If you want to further your education, know that schools, colleges and universities can prohibit you from attending based on your record.

In general, felonies carry a sentence of at least one year in jail. Class E felonies are the least serious offenses, carrying sentences of between one and three years in prison. Class B through Class D felonies carry sentences of increasing severity, ranging between six and 25 years. Class A felonies are the most serious and carry sentences that include life in prison with no hope of parole, or even the death penalty.

States classify felonies in the same manner as the federal government. In some states, letters are used to classify these crimes, while others use numbers. However, the classes are broken down in the same way to include similar crimes. Judges are free to sentence offenders based upon the evidence presented and a variety of other factors, including criminal history, good behavior and intent. If the accused assists law enforcement in any way, that may reflect favorably when it comes time for sentencing. Additionally, if the accused was coerced or forced to commit a crime under duress, that may also be taken into account at sentencing.

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About the Author

Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. Her experience includes years of work in the insurance, workers compensation, disability, and background investigation fields. In addition to being the content writer and social media manager for Alliance Worldwide Investigative Group, she has written on legal topics for a number of other clients. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com) and enjoys writing legal articles and blogs for clients in related industries.