In criminal law, probation is a period of supervised release. As noted by the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC), probation may be ordered (or agreed to) as an alternative to jail time. Defendants must comply with the terms of their probation.
The Commonwealth of Virginia takes probation violations very seriously—a breach could result in harsh penalties, potentially including jail time. Here, our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers explain the most important things you should know about probation violations in Virginia.
Probation in Virginia: Technical Violations and Substantive Violations
As a starting point, you need to know exactly why you or your loved one was accused of a probation violation. The response will depend on the specific allegations. There are different types of violations and they carry different implications. In Virginia, probation violations generally fit into one of the following two broad categories:
- Technical Probation Violations in Virginia: A technical probation violation is a breach of the specific terms of your order/agreement. It could be anything from a missed court date or failure to meet with a probation officer to not paying a fine or failing a drug or alcohol screening.
- Substantive Probation VIolations in Virginia: Also referred to as a ‘new law’ violation, a substantive probation violation occurs when a defendant commits a separate criminal offense. In Virginia, anyone on probation must refrain from engaging in future criminal conduct. If you are arrested again, it could immediately trigger a probation violation.
What are the Penalties for Violating Probation in Northern Virginia?
Alleged probation violations should always be taken seriously. You could face serious consequences if you violate your probation in Virginia. In fact, under Code of Virginia § 19.2-306, a court may revoke probation when a violation occurs. As a consequence, a defendant could be sent to jail or prison simply because of a violation. To be clear, not everyone is immediately taken into custody after a probation violation. Quite the contrary, many probation violations can be rectified without additional jail time. What will happen in any given case depends entirely on the specific circumstances, including:
- The nature of the probation violation;
- The defendant’s history of misconduct or lack thereof; and
- The defendant’s attempts to address the problem.
Do not ignore a probation violation. Even a seemingly minor breach of the terms of your probation could lead to significant consequences. These problems do not go away on their own. Be proactive. With quick action, you can best limit the damage and fallout stemming from a probation violation.
The Legal Standard is Different: More Likely Than Not
If you are charged with a crime, you are presumed to be innocent. The prosecution has a burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, with probation violations, you are not entitled to the same legal protections. In Virginia, violation of probation cases are subject to the preponderance of evidence standard.
This is a much lower hurdle for the prosecution to clear. The Cornell Legal Information Institute explains the preponderance of evidence is a 51 percent standard. In proving a probation violation, a prosecutor only needs to prove that it was more likely than not that you violated the terms of your release. As the legal burden is reduced, it is important to consult with an experienced defense lawyer immediately.
Contact Our Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help
At Whitestone Young, PC, our Virginia criminal defense lawyers have the skills, knowledge, and experience to handle the full range of probation violation cases. If you have questions about your options, we can help. For a strictly confidential criminal defense consultation, please contact us today. From our office in Fairfax, we defend probation violations throughout Northern Virginia, including in Falls Church, Arlington, Alexandria, Manassas, and Woodbridge.