In some cases, the court may sentence a person to probation instead of jail time. In other cases, a person must serve probation after completing jail time. In either case, court-ordered probation must be completed, or you face going to jail.
Probation is a court-supervised release. During the period of probation, the person is allowed to live in the community instead of being confined in jail or prison. However, the person must follow the conditions and terms of probation, or a judge could revoke probation.
Not every criminal offense or person qualifies for probation. For example, violent crimes typically do not qualify for probation. Also, if you have a prior criminal record, there were aggravating factors in your criminal case, or the judge finds releasing you could put the public at risk, you might not qualify for probation.
If you qualify for probation, the term can last for several years. Being on probation can be restrictive. It can also have negative impacts on your life.
However, you might qualify to end probation early. The first step is to talk with a West Chester probation termination lawyer to determine if you qualify to terminate your probation early.
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Can Probation Be Terminated Early in Pennsylvania?
42 Pa.C.S. §9771 gives the court the power to terminate probation or lessen the conditions of probation at any time. To begin the process of terminating probation early, you must file a motion with the court. The court schedules a hearing for your motion.
You have the right to legal counsel during the hearing on your motion for early termination of probation. Hiring an experienced West Chester criminal defense lawyer to prepare and file your paperwork gives you a better chance of succeeding on your motion.
Furthermore, a lawyer understands how to present evidence and argue that your good conduct and reform justify early termination of probation. There are specific criteria a judge needs to see before terminating your probation.
What Factors Impact Whether the Court Grants Early Termination of Probation?
When a person files a motion to terminate probation early, there are several things the judge considers.
First, judges generally will not grant early termination of probation unless you have served at least one-half of your probation term. Therefore, you should talk with a lawyer before filing a motion to terminate probation if you have not served at least half of your probation sentence.
Second, the judge wants to see that you have successfully completed all terms of your probation. The conditions of your probation could include, but are not limited to:
- Completing a specific number of community service hours
- Paying restitution to the victims of your criminal case
- Attending mandatory counseling or therapy sessions
- Completing a drug and/or alcohol treatment program
- Paying fines and court assessments
- Regularly reporting to your probation officer
- Passing required drug and/or alcohol testing
The requirements of probation often contain other restrictions, such as not committing another crime, not possessing a firearm, or refraining from consuming alcohol. The exact terms of your probation depend on the crime, your criminal history, and the facts of the case.
In addition to the above, judges want to see that you have made efforts to maintain good behavior.
For example, you kept a job or went back to school. You maintained a home for yourself and/or your family. You worked within your community to help others or improve conditions.
Any violations of probation conditions work against you. It is difficult to argue that you are reformed and exhibited good conduct when you are guilty of violating your probation. Therefore, it is crucial that you are on your best behavior during probation if you want to have a chance of getting off probation early.
Your lawyer may also argue specific reasons why remaining on probation hurts your ability to be a productive member of society.
For example, you cannot qualify for well-paying jobs because you are on probation. Likewise, you may be unable to obtain approval for loans, including student aid, while on probation. These setbacks could prevent you from moving forward with your life in a productive manner.
The judge also considers the recommendation of your probation officer. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain a good relationship with the probation officer. The probation officer’s recommendation for early termination of probation could help sway the judge in your favor.
What Happens if I Violate My Probation?
Unfortunately, you might not qualify to terminate probation early if you violate its terms. Additionally, there could be other consequences of violating probation.
A technical probation violation occurs when you violate any of the terms or conditions of your probation. For example, failing to report address changes or changes in employment can be considered a probation violation. Likewise, possession of a firearm or weapon could be a probation violation.
You will likely face a probation violation hearing before a judge when you violate probation. There are several actions the judge can take. Probation violations could result in:
- Revocation of your probation (you must serve the jail sentence the judge ordered)
- Modify your probation terms to increase the conditions or add additional restrictions
- Extend the term of your probation
- Require you to attend court-ordered programs based on the specific violation (i.e., drug treatment program for failing a required drug test)
- Additional community service hours
The judge considers several factors when deciding how to punish you for a probation violation. The nature of your technical violation and the seriousness of a new crime you committed are just two factors.
The judge may also consider past probation violations and your criminal history. The court also considers the recommendations of your probation officer.
The probation violation hearing is separate from the hearing on any new criminal charges. If you committed another crime, you would face additional penalties for a conviction.
Do I Need an Attorney if I Violate Probation in West Chester?
Because you could face significant jail time for a probation violation, it is wise to seek legal advice immediately. An attorney can argue one or more defenses to the probation violation that could result in the judge allowing you to continue probation without any additional punishments.
For example, you might not have been aware that you were violating probation, or there could have been mitigating factors to consider. Your lawyer analyzes the case, gathers evidence, and presents an aggressive defense to the allegations you violated your probation.
Call Now to Schedule Your Free Consultation With a West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyer
Are you serving probation for a criminal conviction? If so, call our office at (610) 430-3535 to discuss whether you qualify for early termination of probation. Your free consultation with an experienced West Chester Criminal Lawyer is confidential.