Probation can be a welcome alternative to jail time. It gives you the limited freedom to continue living at home, working to support your loved ones and staying connected with your community. However, violating the terms of your probation can lead to severe penalties and lasting consequences.
- 1 What is Probation?
- 2 How is a Probation Violation Hearing Initiated in Texas?
- 3 What Happens During a Probation Violation Hearing?
- 4 Will the Court Issue an Arrest Warrant for a Violation of Probation in Texas?
- 5 Is Bail an Option While Awaiting a Probation Violation Hearing in Texas?
- 6 Will You Go to Jail for Violating Probation?
- 7 5 Best Strategies to Beat Your Probation Violation
- 8 The Best Strategy to Beat a Probation Violation in Texas
What is Probation?
Probation is a criminal sentence imposed by the court as an alternative to prison time. The sentence is handed out by a judge, not a jury. It is more common for first-time offenders and for less serious crimes.
With probation, the offender is released to go home, to a treatment facility, a half-way house or another approved residence. In return, the offender agrees to his or her conditions of probation, certain rules and guidelines that stipulate what is and isn’t allowed during the probationary period. Some common conditions include:
- Reporting regularly to a probation officer
- Avoid committing any new crimes
- Payment of court costs and restitution
- Abide by a curfew
- Remain in the same residence
- Don’t leave the state or county without written permission
- Get a mental health assessment
- Maintain employment
- Undergo counseling
- Abstain from drugs and alcohol
- Get regular drug tests
- Receive drug or alcohol treatment
- Receive sex offender treatment
- Fulfill a set number of community service hours
The judge will determine the rules and the length of your probation based on the details of the crime and its severity. More serious offenses lead to stricter conditions. If you follow your probation and avoid further legal trouble, you can continue to serve your time outside of jail. However, if you violate your probation, the consequences can be severe, including immediate sentencing and imprisonment.
A judge can issue either a misdemeanor probation or a felony probation. Courts grant misdemeanors for crimes of a less serious nature. Though the need to abide by every rule is just as important as it is with a felony probation. Probation can take several forms including:
This is a sentence made by either a judge or jury after a defendant has been convicted. It can come after a trial or a plea deal.
Probation can cover only part or all of a defendant’s jail time. If the probation covers the entire jail sentence, it is called straight probation.
Deferred adjudication allows for the defendant to serve a period of probation instead of being convicted. The court will not record a conviction on the defendant’s permanent record if they serve their probation without violating the terms set forth by the judge. However, if they violate their probation, the case will resume and move straight to sentencing.
This unique agreement offers considerable leniency and an opportunity for redemption to the accused. Because of this, judges will not show a great deal of mercy to those who violate a deferred adjudication.
How is a Probation Violation Hearing Initiated in Texas?
When you violate your probation agreement, your probation officer or members of law enforcement may go to court and file a motion to adjudicate probation. A judge will then issue a warrant for your arrest. You’ll be taken into custody, locked in county jail and told to show up for a probation violation hearing.
Whether it be for skipping a class or therapy session, refusing a drug or alcohol test, neglecting a meeting with your parole officer or leaving the county, you risk being ordered to a hearing and losing the freedoms which probation affords.
What Happens During a Probation Violation Hearing?
During your hearing, the prosecuting attorney will attempt to prove that a violation has occurred by a preponderance of evidence. The judge will weigh the evidence against you and consider the specific type, nature and seriousness of the alleged violation, along with any history of prior violations.
You and your attorney can then argue that no violation occurred. You can attempt to present a good reason why it happened or what you will do to make up for your errors. You can also make the case for it being a minor violation and simply not enough to justify revocation.
If you fail to make a convincing case and are thus found guilty, you will be sentenced. The judge may tighten or extend the terms of your probation. You may be ordered to do additional community service. In the worst-case scenario, probation will end and you’ll be forced to spend the remainder of your sentence in jail.
Will the Court Issue an Arrest Warrant for a Violation of Probation in Texas?
Anytime you violate the conditions of your probation, you open yourself up to the possibility of arrest. Your probation officer or correctional treatment specialist may simply give you a warning. More often, if you make no effort to communicate with your officer regarding your violation, they will petition the court for an arrest warrant. This is known as a bench warrant.
The bench warrant issued in your name authorizes law enforcement to arrest you immediately. If this happens, you’ll be brought before a judge to try and resolve the warrant and address your violation. Bench warrants do not expire. They can only be served or recalled. No amount of time passed will remove this warrant without its resolution.
Is Bail an Option While Awaiting a Probation Violation Hearing in Texas?
If your judge believes that you don’t pose a danger to your community, he will move forward and set the exact amount of bail based upon either a bail schedule or his own discretion. In this case, you may pursue a bond from a licensed bail bondsman, or bail agent, as you would with any other case. Unfortunately, bail is not a guarantee. The judge might not allow you to post bond. They may feel you are a ‘flight-risk” and will fail to appear in court if they allow you to walk.
Will You Go to Jail for Violating Probation?
Jail time isn’t a guarantee when you violate probation. If the judge issues a warrant for your arrest and not simply a notice for you to appear, you will be taken into custody and held until the court decides what to do during your hearing.
If the judge orders you to serve time in jail as punishment for your crime, the amount of time you spend behind bars will depend on the following:
- Your specific offense
- The original length of your probation
- Changes made to your probation agreement by the judge.
The upper limits of time served in this case are only restricted by the maximum allowable sentence for your crime.
5 Best Strategies to Beat Your Probation Violation
You need to partner with an experienced attorney if you hope to have a reasonable chance of beating your probation violation. There are several strategies you and your lawyer can use to make your case. These are five of the best examples:
1. Prove That You Did Not Violate Probation
During your hearing the judge will make two determinations, whether there was, in fact, a violation, and if so, what sentence to impose. If you have sufficient evidence to do so, attempting to prove the violation didn’t take place is certainly your best option. If you are successful, the violation will not be entered into your permanent record and your probation will continue without delay.
2. Prove That You Make a Positive Contribution to Society
It’s important to show the judge that your community or family is not better off with you behind bars, that they may actually suffer if this happens. If you spend your days and nights wasting away on the couch playing video games and avoiding responsibility, you’ll have a hard time making this argument. However, if you’re working hard, taking care of your kids, staying connected with positive groups and volunteering in your community, you may be able to prove your point.
3. Try to Fix Violations That Are Possible to Fix
This is a straightforward solution. Make good on your commitments to the judicial system. If you neglected to fulfill your 150 hours of community service, get going. If you haven’t paid restitution for a crime, figure out how to do so immediately. If you’ve opted out of your drug and alcohol rehabilitation meetings, start attending right away without fail.
4. Work Your Best to Get Better and Address Failings
You can’t go back and change what’s already been done. You can, however, work your tail off to change your ways and make better decisions in the future. You and your lawyer can attempt to convince the judge that you are fully aware of both the severity of your choices and the need for improvement.
If the judge allows this, go all in. Don’t be subtle about your efforts. Give it your full attention. If you failed a random drug test, take repeated voluntary drug tests to rack up a series of clean ones. Attend AA meetings two or three times a week instead of just once. Do additional community service voluntarily. Take some vocational or online classes. Agree to check in with your probation officer more often. Get a counselor and a handful of mentors, which leads us to our final strategy.
5. Seek Quality Mentors, Ready to Vouch for You
Your authentic connections can go a long way toward proving to the judge that you deserve to remain under community supervision. If you have a few respected community members willing to vouch for you, it can be a massive boost to your argument. Consider a pastor, business owner, trusted politician, coach or non-profit leader.
The Best Strategy to Beat a Probation Violation in Texas
Your best strategy always begins and ends with the right attorney. Tackling a probation violation alone is a fast way to get yourself locked up. With an experienced lawyer, your chances of success rise exponentially.
The specific strategies the two of you use to prove your argument will depend on the nature of your violation and how confident your attorney is in any particular strategy. Communicate clearly and respectfully. Sharpen your character through more thoughtful decision-making. Fulfill your commitments and partner with a great lawyer.
Ben has worked on thousands of cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has gotten hundreds of charges dismissed and pled down several hundred more. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.