During the 2014 fiscal year, the Missouri Department of Probation and Parole supervised a total of 45,867 people on probation. As you can imagine, of that 45,867, not everyone is successful on supervision. If you are one of the unfortunate ones who has had a small hiccup while on probation and are now facing an angry judge and prosecutor looking to put you in prison, continue reading for some tips on how to win your probation violation hearing and stay out of prison.
So, it follows the most obvious way to win your probation violation hearing is to convince the judge the answer to question number 1 is “no”. Has it happened? Sure. Is it likely? Nope. Why? Opinions differ, but that is probably a topic for another post.First, what it means to “win” your probation violation can take many forms. At a probation violation hearing, a judge essentially makes two determinations: 1.) Did you, in fact, violate the terms of your probation? and 2.) If so, what punishment should you face as a result. That’s it.
If you have little hope of convincing the judge that you did not violate the terms of probation, how do you still “win”? Well, you win by staying on probation and out of prison. Since every probationer, judge, probation officer, and prosecutor are different, the way you go about getting this result varies.
5 Strategies to Avoid Prison after a Probation Violation
- Fix the Violations that can be Fixed. In the most basic terms, to “fix” the violation means to go do the thing that the judge ordered you to do in the first place prior to your probation violation hearing. Examples? Examples: If you owed $1,200 in restitution for the TV you stole and pawned, find a way to pay that money. If the judge ordered you to do 100 hours of community service but as of this date you have done 4 hours, you need to do 96 hours as soon as possible. You get the idea.
- Work to Address your Failings.Obviously, not every probation violation can be fixed. If you tested positive for meth on a routine probation urinalysis test, you cannot go back in time and make that test negative. Unless you have a time machine – in which case I would advise you to go back in time and not commit the offense for which you are on probation in the first place. Also, get rich by betting on sports. You should do that too.
But, in this non-time machine scenario, your only option is to show the judge that you are working to fix your problem. Did you drop dirty? Go to treatment. Attend 2 NA meetings every week. Voluntarily take drug tests and pile up a bunch of clean tests. Whatever you have to do to convince the judge that, while you messed up, you are working your tail off to better yourself.
- Make a Positive Contribution to Society.The end game for any probation violation hearing is the judge’s decision of whether to throw you in prison or not. The math of that decision is actually pretty simple: Is the community better off with you in prison? Or is it better of with you in the community.
If at the time of your probation violation your greatest contribution to the community is that you’ve mastered Call of Duty while sitting on your mom’s couch, you’re in trouble. But, if you are spending your time at a job, taking care of your children, and volunteering in the community, you just might have a shot!
- Don’t Hang Out With CriminalsMy uncle used to say “If you’re with the crowd, you are the crowd.” If your name continually pops up on their magic little computer as an associate of other criminals while your probation violation case is pending, the prosecutor and probation officer will no doubt group you in with that crowd. Not ideal. Instead, put yourself in a position where your lawyer can go into court and show the judge, prosecutor and probation officer that you are NOT that crowd. That you’re trying. That you’re different than those other people that come in here with violations. Most importantly, that you deserve to stay on probation and out of prison.
- Seek Out Quality MentorsYour prospects of staying out of prison increase greatly when you have someone in the community come into court and vouch for you. A pastor. A small-business owner. The leader of a non-profit. Whomever. Surround yourself with these people and work your ass off to impress them. Prove to them that you are worthy of staying in the community, and they will help you prove it to the judge by vouching for you in court.
If you are on probation and the prosecutor has filed a motion to revoke that probation, don’t panic. So long as you are breathing non-prison air, you have a chance to improve your situation. Doing the 5 things above will almost certainly increase your odds of staying out of prison. Obviously, if you have questions or need advice on your particular case, I’d love to talk to you about it.
The Glaesman Law Firm, LLC is a full service criminal defense law firm located at 820 S. Main St. Suite 208, St. Charles, Missouri 63301. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or is facing a probation violation hearing, call them right away to discuss your options.