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.

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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.