Why You Should Take Probation Seriously

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But it’s only Probation! Why you should take it seriously.

Probation isn’t just a “get out of jail free” card.

Many times, especially when dealing with first-time offenders, a Court may sentence someone facing criminal charges to supervised probation instead of serving time in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. This is a better alternative for the Defendant than serving time in prison; however, if not followed properly, the probation can ultimately lead you to prison, possibly for the full length of the sentence available for each charge you plead guilty to. For one reason or another, many people do not understand the seriousness of probation and the consequences that may come if not followed properly.

Probation only comes when you plead guilty!

One thing to remember, you plead guilty to the charges! Why is this so important if you only got probation? In order to receive a sentence of probation, one must plead guilty to the charges. When accepting your plea deal for probation, the Court will remind you that if you do not meet the stipulations of your probation, the Judge can come back and sentence you to the full sentence available to them under the Arkansas sentencing guidelines. For example, a class D felony (the smallest of the felonies) carries with it a term of imprisonment up to 6 years. So, if your probation officer or the prosecutor files a petition to revoke your probation, you could end up serving the full length of the sentence under the sentencing guidelines.

What are actions that constitute violating probation?

The better question is what actions do not. When someone gets put on supervised probation, they are immediately under the careful watch of the State of Arkansas and in particular, their probation officer. There are two main types of probation violations: 1) technical violations and 2) being charged with a new crime. What is a technical violation? A technical violation is when you do not do something you were supposed to. Examples are paying your fines, failing a drug test, failing to report to your probation officer when scheduled to meet, and so on. Fortunately, in Arkansas, there is Act 423. This Act allows probation officers and prosecutors to place someone in the county jail for a shorter period of time on technical violations instead of sending the person to the Arkansas Department of Corrections. The goal of this act is to limit the number of inmates in the prison system. The act states that minor violations can be up to 90 days in jail and up to 180 days in jail for major technical violations.

How many technical violations can I get before being sent to prison?

Criminal defense attorneys hear this question often. Under Act 423, you can receive up to 6 sanctions before being fully revoked and sent to the Arkansas Department of Corrections. However, please be aware that you are eligible to be fully revoked after only two (2) sanctions. If the prosecutor files a revocation of your probation, it is best to contact a criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer understands that sanctions are available to their client in lieu of prison time if under six (6) technical violations.

What happens when the State files to revoke probation?

If the State files to revoke probation, the first thing to figure out is if it is a technical probation violation or a violation for being charged with a new crime. If it is technical, it’s best to always look and see whether sanctions are available. If this is not the case, or if you caught a new charge, then there will have to be a probation revocation hearing. In the hearing, your attorney will be able to cross examine any witness the prosecutor calls and you may call your own witnesses. This includes your probation officer.

 However, the most important thing to remember regarding a revocation hearing is that the State does not have to prove you violated your probation beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard for both probation and parole hearings is much lower than in a normal jury trial. The standard in these hearing is “preponderance of evidence.” This means, looking at the evidence presented, it is more likely than not that you violated your probation. That is a much lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is what must be proven in any criminal trial. And lastly, if a petition to revoke probation is filed against you, you are not afforded the right to a jury trial. It is the judge, and the judge only, that decides whether you violated your probation.

At Eason Law, we have helped many people navigate criminal charges. Whether it be a simple traffic violation, marijuana possession, or felony drug charges, we handle it all. If you need an experienced legal team to help you navigate your criminal law matters, call us today and let us help you through the process.

Contact us today for your FREE consultation.

Please click the scheduling link below to set a time and date with one of our attorneys. We’re looking forward to helping you!

Jonesboro Criminal Defense & Family Law

Serving Northeast Arkansas as well as numerous other counties in Arkansas, Eason Law has built a reputation for providing excellent legal services to our clients in a courteous and professional manner. Every client has a unique need when consulting with an attorney. We work together with each individual client and tailor our representation to meet the needs and goals of each client.

Riding Dirty-Was that Police Stop an Illegal Search and Seizure?

Man being arrested by police officer

Riding Dirty - Was that police stop an illegal search and seizure?

If you have stumbled upon this article, chances are it was not by mistake. As criminal defense attorneys, we often get asked about illegal search and seizures during a vehicle stop. Most people believe that their stop was unconstitutional, but was it? What are the factors the court will look at to throw the evidence out during a criminal trial?

Did the Police Officer Have Probable Cause?

During a criminal trial in Arkansas, in order for a prosecutor to introduce evidence from a search conducted by police during a traffic stop, the prosecutor must establish one of two things: 1) that the officer who conducted the stop had reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct justifying the stop; or 2) that the driver of the vehicle gave consent to the search. Keep in mind that if you consent, any evidence found can be used against you!

What creates reasonable suspicion? 

In Arkansas, Reasonable Suspicion is defined as “a suspicion based on facts or circumstances which of themselves do not give rise to the probable cause requisite to justify a lawful arrest, but which give rise to more than a bare suspicion; that is, a suspicion that is reasonable as opposed to an imaginary or purely conjectural suspicion” [Ark. R. Crim. P. 2.1]. Numerous circumstances can lead to “reasonable suspicion” for an officer to stop your car. Traffic violations such as speeding, broken taillights, failure to use turn signal, and expired tags, among many other minor traffic violations, are enough reason for a police officer to stop your vehicle. However, an officer may not target an individual. Targeting individuals includes, but is not limited to, pulling a vehicle over because of the driver’s race or stopping a vehicle if an officer sees it leaving a bar. However, please keep in mind “A police officer is justified in making a traffic stop if the officer has probable cause to believe that the vehicle has violated a traffic law. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996).

How Long Can an Officer Detain Your Vehicle During a Routine Traffic Stop?

A police officer may detain you while completing certain routine tasks. For example, as part of a valid traffic stop, a police officer may detain you while the officer completes certain routine tasks, such as computerized checks of the vehicle’s registration and the driver’s license and criminal history, and the writing up of a citation or warning. The officer is allowed to ask routine questions such as your destination, the purpose of your trip, or if the officer can search the vehicle. Always keep in mind that the officer is allowed to act on whatever information you volunteer to them. However, continued detention of a person or vehicle beyond a reasonable time to complete these routine tasks is illegal by the officer. Any evidence the prosecutor offers to introduce from a search considered illegal should be suppressed in a criminal trial.

May the Fourth Be with You

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the unreasonable search and seizure of persons or their belongings. If an officer violates the rules stated above while searching your car, then the officer will have conducted the search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Any evidence gathered in an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment can be suppressed at your criminal trial. The court will not suppress the evidence on its own. You will need an experienced criminal defense attorney to file a “Motion to Suppress.” Your attorney will argue many of the points made above and why this search violates your Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. We highly suggest hiring an experienced Arkansas criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with a criminal offense such as drug possession, marijuana possession, possession with intent to deliver and so on.

Eason Law can Help

At Eason Law, we have helped many people navigate criminal charges. Whether it be a simple traffic violation, marijuana possession, or felony drug charges, we handle it all. If you need an experienced legal team to help you navigate your criminal law matters, call us today and let us help you through the process.

Contact us today for your FREE consultation.

Please click the scheduling link below to set a time and date with one of our attorneys. We’re looking forward to helping you!