For someone convicted of a crime in South Carolina, being allowed to serve part of their term on probation instead of incarcerated may feel like a dream come true. However, probation involves several responsibilities that are strictly upheld. When someone violates the terms of their probation, they may be subject to increased penalties and even sent back to incarceration. It is important for anyone on probation to understand what behavior could be considered a violation in order to avoid potentially severe consequences.
What Is Probation?
Probation is a sanction placed on someone who has been found guilty of a crime. When someone is on probation, they are allowed to remain in their community instead of in jail or prison. However, that time spent in their community is heavily monitored, and there are many conditions. The conditions are non-negotiable and are put in place to help rehabilitate the convicted person and to act as punishment in place of imprisonment. Some examples of common probation conditions are:
- Fees: Most people on probation will be responsible for paying probation fees. They may also be required to pay fees for other things such as services they receive or pay restitution to the victim of their crime.
- Staying sober: Most people on probation are required to abstain from drugs and alcohol for the duration of their probation. This is a condition imposed on people even if their crime was not drug related. Probation officers are given the right to request drug testing. Drug testing may also be a specific condition of an individual’s probation.
- Attending counseling: Anyone who is on probation after being convicted of a crime in which drugs was involved may be required to attend a rehabilitation program as part of their sentence.
- Staying employed: Gainful employment is often a condition of probation. The goal is to ensure that the person on probation is being productive and isn’t falling back into the patterns that lead to their crime. Being enrolled in an education program may also suffice.
- Sex offender treatment: If someone is on probation because they committed a sex crime, they may also have to register as a sex offender and complete a treatment program designed for people in that situation.
- Mental health treatment: Some people, depending on the severity of their crime, may be required to get mental health treatment, or be evaluated. This is done to help a person suffering from mental health issues to prevent them from committing further crimes.
In the state of South Carolina, a probation sentence cannot be longer than 5 years. Once someone completes the terms of their probation, they are generally free to return to their normal life.
Violating Probation Conditions
When someone is placed on probation, the conditions they have to follow will be outlined very clearly. If someone does not follow through on those conditions, they may face further legal trouble. Probation is intended to help rehabilitate criminals, but also to keep the public safe. If the court suspects that a person is not following the conditions of their probation, they can revoke that person’s probation and sentence them to a different punishment. Some examples of behavior that may lead to a revoked probation include:
- Violating any of the probation conditions laid out by the judge, which will be given to the convicted party in writing
- Failing any random or scheduled drug tests
- Failing to submit to any drug testing
- Failing to maintain employed or enrolled in school
- Missing scheduled appointments with a probation officer
- Trying to skip out on probation conditions by leaving town
- Being arrested or charged with another crime, regardless of how minimal
- Failing to show up for mandatory community service put in place as a condition of the probation
- Failing to pay any supervision fees, restitution, or other fees associated with the probation.
In certain situations, a probation officer may feel as though a probation violation is minor enough to be handled without revoking the probation as a whole. Most probation officers do not want to push someone back into jail if they are mostly succeeding on their probation. Serious violations and repeat violations are most likely to lead to consequences.
Revoking a Probation Sentence
If someone is suspected of violating their probation, they will be served with a Violation of Probation warrant. That warrant serves as an accusation from their probation officer of violating the terms of their probation. Note that people on probation are entitled to a bond on a Violation of Probation warrant unless they do not come to the probation violation hearing after being served the warrant.
Most people are then required to attend an administrative hearing which will be conducted by a hearing officer and attended by the probation officer. In this situation, the accused party is able to have a lawyer present. Anyone facing an administrative hearing should consider retaining experienced and competent legal counsel. Minor probation violations are often settled during this hearing, and a person may find themselves subject to more surveillance or another form of increased punishment.
However, if the violation was severe and the officers determine they believe the person’s probation should be revoked, a hearing will be scheduled in the Circuit Court. This hearing gives the accused party another opportunity to argue their case. At this hearing, a judge will review the relevant evidence and listen to arguments from both sides. That judge will then be responsible for determining whether the person in question violated their probation. If they believe there was a violation, they can also decide on consequences.
If someone is facing a hearing for a violation, they can:
- Deny that there was a violation in the first place, which will lead to a hearing in which the probation officer will testify. This is not always the best option, especially for people who do not have solid proof that they didn’t violate their probation conditions.
- Admit to violating the terms of their conditions and present to the court the reasons for the violation occurring. In this case, the judge may allow the person to continue with their probation or partially revoke it, meaning they will spend some time in jail and then finish the rest of their probation.
We Can Help You
If you have been accused of violating your probation and need legal representation, contact Masella Law Firm, P.A. today. We understand that this is a difficult time. We can help you by reviewing all of the details of your situation and guiding you in court. With more than 25 years of experience working on behalf of South Carolina clients, we have the experience to work towards keeping your probation in place. Contact us today (803) 938-4952 at or online.