A probation revocation hearing is different from a criminal trial in several ways. Simply put- a probation revocation hearing occurs when you are charged with violating the terms of your probation and are ordered to appear before a judge who will decide, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether you have violated the terms of your probation.
To get a better understanding of what happens during a probation revocation hearing, let’s break down each of those components.
Violating Probation Terms
As you are probably aware, your probation is subject to conditions you must adhere to. These conditions often include:
- Follow all local, state, and federal laws.
- Do not use any controlled substances, except with medical prescription.
- Submit to testing for use of controlled substances.
- Submit to breathalyzer tests.
- Consent to searches of your premises, vehicle, and personal property.
- Do not change jobs or place of residence without informing your probation officer.
- Do not travel outside the state without permission from your probation officer.
- Do not possess any firearms.
- Obey any and all special conditions of your probation.
Hearing Before a Judge
Unlike a criminal trial, which involves a jury making findings of fact, a probation revocation hearing is before a judge. The judge will hear arguments from both sides and render a decision.
Burden of Proof
In a probation revocation hearing, the prosecutor does not need to prove to the judge that you violated the terms of your probation “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The prosecutor need only prove that you violated the terms of your probation “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This is a lower burden of proof, which means it’s an easier job for the prosecution than the burden they normally have during a criminal trial to prove each and every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
“By a preponderance of the evidence” basically means that one side is more likely true than not. Therefore, if the prosecution can persuade the judge that there is a 51% likelihood that you violated the terms of your probation, they will be successful.
Outcome of the Hearing
If the judge finds that you violated the terms of your probation, the judge may impose stricter limitations on your probation or revoke your probation, which might result in imprisonment.
If the judge finds that you did not violate the terms of your probation, the current length and terms of your probation will continue.
As mentioned, the prosecution has a lower burden of proof in a probation revocation hearing than in a criminal trial, therefore, being represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney during a probation revocation hearing is crucial to protect your rights and freedom.