Although probation in various forms has been a feature of the American criminal justice system since the 19th Century, the system we know today developed and grew over time. The first formal body created in New York was the New York State Probation Commission. Today, New York’s system is administered on the local level but remains under general state oversight.
Probation is typically an alternative to incarceration. Typical probation periods for misdemeanors and felonies are, respectively, three and five years, but judges have the discretion to impose shorter or longer terms.
While it is admittedly preferable to spending time in prison, probation conditions and rules are numerous and easily violated. Aside from the obvious one of not committing any additional crimes, conditions can and do include:
Regular reporting to an assigned probation officer
Being subject to warrantless searches of person and property
Maintaining employment or enrollment in school
Regular or random testing for use of drugs or alcohol
Inability to move from one county to another without approval by the probation departments of both
Most probationers are unaccustomed to accounting for their whereabouts and otherwise answering to an authority figure such as a probation officer. Some complain that their “P.O” is overly involved their personal lives. Failure to cooperate, however, is generally inadvisable.
A P.O. who believes a probationer violated a condition of probation can file a Violation of Probation (“VOP”) notice with the Criminal Court. While substantive violations, such as committing a new crime are the most serious, probationers should not assume that failure to keep a meeting with his or her P.O. or other technical violations will be overlooked, especially if they become habitual.
The probationer must then convince a judge (often the same one who sentenced him or her) that he or she shouldn’t be sent to prison. There is no jury, and the standard of proof is significantly lower than in a criminal prosecution. As such, while an appeal of an adverse decision is theoretically possible, few violation findings are ever overturned.
It is also important to understand that a probationer found to be in violation at any time is subject to the same possible punishment. As such, a violation on the final day of probation has the same potential consequences as one committed early on.
Depending upon the probationer’s overall record and the seriousness of the violation, prosecutors may consider an offer by the probationer’s counsel for the probationer to become subject to additional or different conditions in exchange for remaining in probationary status. Judges will generally accept such agreements.
Whether in Brewster or elsewhere within or beyond Putnam County, having a probation violation attorney speak for you at this hearing can often make the difference between a second chance and loss of freedom.
NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.