For individuals who commit lesser offenses in Wisconsin, one of the sentencing alternatives available in criminal court is probation. Probation allows criminal defendants to stay out of jail, but requires them to abide by certain conditions during their period of probation in order to avoid further punishment.
If a criminal defendant fails to abide by these conditions, he or she can be determined to be in violation of probation, which may require the defendant to appear before a judge yet again and can result in the imposition of additional punishments, including being forced to serve a sentence in jail.
How Does Probation Work in North Central Wisconsin?
Probation is a form of court-imposed sentencing in Wisconsin that allows a criminal defendant to be released into the community rather than being held in a jail for a determined period of time. Probation typically comes with particular requirements, or terms attached to it, which are imposed by a judge and which a defendant must follow.
The terms of probation vary depending on the crime and the judge, but typically include conditions such as no additional violations of the law; checking in regularly with a probation officer; taking and passing drug tests; alcohol or drug counseling; mental health therapy; completing community service and not leaving the state without permission.
If a criminal defendant is able to abide by these strict requirements for a set period of time, such as two or three years, he or she may complete probation and be found to have served a full sentence by the court. Assuming no further crimes are committed, the defendant will be free of the criminal justice system.
Sometimes, however, probation does not go so simply. Instead, a criminal defendant may fail a routine drug test, not show up for required counseling, or fail to check in with a probation officer at a predetermined time. When this happens, the defendant may have violated the terms of probation, leading to all sorts of new problems.
When Probation Goes Awry
Many courts and judge see probation as extending a hand to a criminal defendant and offering them another chance. Rather than forcing them to spend time in jail, the court decides that it is safe for the defendant to remain in public as long as they can abide by certain conditions. For this reason when a defendant violates the terms of probation, courts have little sympathy for such conduct.
If a probation officer believes that a violation of probation has occurred, he or she will place a “probation hold” on the criminal defendant. This means that the defendant will usually be placed in a county jail while the probation officer begins to investigate what happened. The probation officer will speak with the criminal defendant to get his or her story and investigate any additional facts or witnesses that are available.
If the officer determines that the defendant has violated probation, he will revoke the probation status. A defendant will be notified that probation is being revoked and be given the right to have a hearing conducted regarding the probation revocation.
An initial hearing will usually be held within fifteen days of when the defendant is first detained. The point of the initial hearing is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the defendant did violate probation and, thus, whether continued detention is warranted until a final probation revocation hearing occurs. It can be difficult for defendants to win the right to release at this hearing.
Regardless of whether an initial hearing is conducted, a final probation revocation hearing must occur within 50 days of when the criminal defendant was first detained. At this hearing, the judge will consider evidence by both sides as to whether a probation violation occurred.
Probation hearings can be very complex and certain rules like the rules of evidence do not apply. The burden of proof for probation officers trying to establish a probation violation is also fairly low, which means that the defendant may be at substantial risk of being found guilty of a violation. All of this means that a defendant may want to consider hiring counsel for a final probation hearing.
Back to Jail
If a criminal defendant is found guilty of a violation of probation, the probation may be revoked and the defendant will have a punishment imposed. In many cases, the punishment may be the original jail sentence the defendant would have served but for probation. If an original sentence was never imposed, the judge will consider what sentence is appropriate at the probation revocation hearing.
In either event, the defendant may face serious repercussions for the probation violation, including the potential loss of freedom and time in jail.
Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.
Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.
Wisconsin Attorneys Helping You To Protect Your Freedom
If you have recently been accused of a probation violation, it is important to take an active approach to your defense. Allegations of probation violations may be based on inaccurate facts, witnesses who misunderstood what was happening, or a test result that was faulty.
Defendants should never assume that a claim of probation violation is accurate and should do their best to fight back against charges against them, at both the initial hearing and final hearing phases. Asserting your rights can be fundamentally important to avoiding time back in jail and clearing your name.
At Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C, our criminal defense attorneys frequently assist in probation and probation revocation proceedings and may be able to aggressively represent your interests in court. If you are looking for strong defense representation in court or simply have questions about how probation works in Wisconsin, contact our Wausau, WI offices online or at (715) 842-2291.