If the judge in your criminal matter sentenced you to probation instead of jail time, you and your family were likely relieved. Incarceration can devastate your life and jeopardize your job, your finances and your relationships. Many also find spending time behind bars changes them for the worse and does not always provide them with opportunities they may need to improve their lives or get back on the right track.
Probation, on the other hand, is an alternative to jail. While you may not stay in jail, you will have certain restrictions and obligations. Failing to abide by the terms of your probation is a violation that can result in serious consequences.
The terms of your probation
It is important that you understand fully the terms of your probation. The judge in your case may read them aloud to you, but you should ask your attorney for an explanation or clarification of any terms you do not understand. At any time during your probationary period, if you violate the terms, you may face consequences that include fines, an extension of your probation or revocation of your probation, which can mean serving the rest of your sentence in jail.
Some common probationary terms include the following:
- Scheduled appointments with your probation officer
- Court-imposed fines
- Restitution to those harmed by the offense of which the court convicted you
- Restrictions against associating with convicted felons
- Prohibitions against engaging in illegal activity
- Prohibitions against possessing or using controlled substances
- Requirement to remain in Wisconsin unless you have permission to leave
You may also have scheduled court appearances to attend, and failing to show up for those dates may result in a warrant for your arrest.
What to expect after an alleged violation
Your probation officer has some discretion about what will happen after he or she becomes aware that you have allegedly violated the terms of your court order. Depending on the severity of the violation and the circumstances surrounding it, you may receive a warning. However, if your probation officer calls you to a hearing, you can expect some form of penalty, including jail time, if the court finds you guilty.
You have the right to know the charges against you, to present witnesses in your defense and to have legal counsel during the entire process. Your attorney can assist you in building a strong defense and in choosing a course of action that will minimize the potential negative consequences.