Probation Violations in NJ

Probation is usually granted by the court system when a defendant has completed a jail sentence, made a plea deal or if the judge has provided probation as an alternative to jail.  But what might happen if one violates their probation?  The result will have significant and permanently life-altering consequences on the person in violation of their probation and on their families and loved ones as well.

What is Probation and Its Intended Purpose?

Probation differs from parole in the fact that it is often granted by a judge and can be negotiated by an experienced attorney.  Probation is usually granted for less-severe crimes where the criminal background of the individual is minimal.  While on probation the defendant is bound to a particular set of rules and regulations that they must follow if they want to avoid violating the terms of their probation and get sentenced to serve time in prison.  A defendant is granted parole after being convicted in court and completing their state prison sentence.

Below are some of the common conditions that can be attached to an individual’s probation order:

  • Curfews, not being able to leave a home after a certain time at night
  • Random urinalysis for drug testing or alcohol screening
  • Regular meetings with probation officer
  • No criminal activity or criminal association while on probation
  • Drug/alcohol treatment
  • Electronic monitoring
  • Payment of fines and court costs
  • Community service 

How Do I Avoid a Probation Violation?

The first step in successfully completing your probation is cooperating with your probation officer to ensure, as they are the ones involved with reporting on your progress and how closely you follow the terms of your probation.  Understand the rules and regulations required by your probation sentence and make the best effort to follow them.  In the state of New Jersey a copy of these rules and regulations is provided for the defendant to make sure that they are made aware of requirements that they must meet as a part of their probation sentence.  The defendant is also required to sign a joint statement with their probation officer ensuring that he or she knows of the requirements of their probation and stating the officer’s observance of the probation and its requirements.  In New Jersey, 2C:45-1 outlines the conditions of suspension or probation.

As part of a probation sentence defendants may be subjected to a variety of different rules that if broken will result in probation and violation and mandatory time served in prison.   The defendant may be required to support his dependents/family, find employment, go to medical or psychiatric treatment and stay in such facilities if required and maintain a course of education or vocational training.

When the court revokes or suspends a probation then the court is allowed to impose on the defendant any sentence that might have been imposed based on the original charges and a conviction under N.J.S.A. @C:45-3(b).    When a judge determines prison sentences for a defendant found to have violated his probation the only aggravating factors that may be considered are those that existed at the time of the initial sentencing.  This means that violating the probation itself may not be considered per State v. Baylass, 114 N.J. 169.

The terms of probation will also require you to avoid fraternizing in unlawful areas or places and avoid dealing with people purported to be involved in unlawful activity.  Defendants must not maintain possession of a firearm unless specifically granted written permission by the courts.  Defendants must remain within the jurisdiction of the court and notify their probation officer of any changes in address or employment.

The defendant will not be granted bail if arrested while within the probation period, and a probation officer or other officer of the peace may place the defendant under arrest without a warrant if they believe that the defendant has not complied with the regulations imposed by the probation.

What if I am Charged With a Probation Violation?

Defendants who are on probation have often found themselves facing charges for violating the terms of their probation.  Violations might include the use and or possession of drugs, alcohol and other related substances or a failed drug or alcohol test.  An attorney experienced in probation violations can help you make the right decisions when it comes to making a plea or avoiding some of the harsher penalties that you might incur.   Having an attorney on your side can help you to successfully reduce the some of the strict punishments that can affect your rights and freedoms.