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Even a minor violation of probation could mean jail time

Facing criminal charges is frightening, especially if they are felony charges with the potential for a large jail sentence. For those accused of non-violent crimes and first time offenses, there is always potential for probation instead of jail, unless there is a mandatory minimum sentence for the crime.

Receiving probation is like getting a second chance. You are subject to supervision by specialized correctional officers, but you can remain outside of prison. Sometimes, however, things go wrong and someone who receives probation ends up violating the terms of probation. When that happens, the second chance could end abruptly. There is a very real potential for jail time after a probation violation.

Probation terms may vary, depending on the crime

While there are certain aspects of probation that are standard regardless of the criminal charges or circumstances, every case is unique. If the charges relate to alcohol or drugs, for example, a person on probation may need to submit to random drug and alcohol testing. Sometimes, a person on probation can travel or even move to another county or state, but other times, such travel is not permitted.

One general rule is that offenders on probation will need to report to a probation officer, who will ensure that the individual continues to comply with the terms of probation. Usually, these meetings occur between one and three times a month, based on the seriousness of the offense and the workload of the officer. Terms of probation almost universally include requirements to pay certain fees and against socializing with anyone convicted of a felony.

Make sure you understand what the courts expect

One of the best ways to protect your freedom and make the most of your second chance is to carefully follow any and all terms of your probation, no matter how frustrating or arbitrary they may seem. Typically, you need to maintain the same residence and immediately report any change. You will also need to maintain gainful employment.

If anything about the terms of your probation confuses you, you should seek advice from your probation officer. He or she should help you understand what you can and cannot do while on probation. The better your understanding, the lower the potential risk for accidentally violating your probation.

Violating probation means you could serve the full sentence

Typically, those accused of crimes receive probation in lieu of a prison term. Those found to have violated the terms of their probation could very well find themselves remanded into state custody. Thankfully, there is a court hearing that allows the offender to defend against the accusation of a violation. Sometimes, if the violation is minor, the judge will allow the person to remain on probation.

Other times, however, a probation violation will result in the individual serving the full jail sentence for the crime. That could mean months or even years in jail for going to a bar, losing your job, getting into a fist fight or not knowing your roommate had a felony conviction in the past.

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