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What are the Consequences of a Probation Violation?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP August 10, 2021

When a person is convicted of a crime, the judge is often permitted to sentence them to a term of probation rather than putting them jail or prison. When you’re on probation, you are subject to certain terms and conditions – often you’re drug tested, required to seek and maintain employment, attend anger management or seek substance abuse treatment, and you must not get arrested again. The terms depend on what the judge believes is appropriate, and they will sentence you accordingly. A judge can also opt to sentence you to prison time first, and probation once you’re released. If you violate probation, you could find yourself in quite a bit of trouble. 


Type of Violation

The consequences of a probation violation often depend on the type of violation it is – a technical violation or a substantive violation. A technical violation occurs when you violate one of the conditions of probation, and a substantive violation occurs when you commit a crime after being placed on probation. While it’s always up to the judge to sentence you for a probation violation, your sentence will generally be more severe for another arrest than for a violation of one of the conditions of your probation. However, if you continuously violate certain conditions of your probation, the consequences may end up being as severe as if you were arrested for a new crime.


Motion to Revoke Probation Hearing

When you are accused of violating your probation, you will then have a Motion to Revoke Probation hearing. At this hearing, the judge will hear the evidence that the prosecutor and your probation officer put forward, and you and your lawyer will also be able to speak and defend you. While the standard of proof in criminal cases is generally beyond a reasonable doubt, in probation revocation hearings, the prosecutor only has to prove that you violated your probation by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the judge hears all of the evidence, they will make a finding of whether you violated probation or not. If they believe you violated your probation, the judge can take several different actions. 


Possible Consequences 

The possible consequences of violating your probation can be quite severe. If the judge determines that you violated the conditions of your probation, whether it was technical or substantive, they have several options, including the following:


Issue a warning

Revoke your probation and issue a new, longer probation sentence

Add additional conditions, such as community service 

Place you on house arrest to restrict your movement 

Require you to attend drug and alcohol treatment 

Revoke your probation and sentence you to a jail or prison term


In addition to the legal consequences that the judge determines, there are other collateral consequences of violating your probation. The longer you’re on probation, the more difficult it is to lead a ‘normal’ life because you have to make sure you’re following all the rules of probation. This almost always includes reporting to a probation officer, which takes time out of your day, making it difficult to maintain employment. 


A Lawyer Can Assist

If you’re accused of violating your probation, consulting with an experienced Boulder criminal defense attorney is always a good idea.