Pittsburgh Probation Lawyer | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys

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With the overcrowding of jails and state prisons, probation is becoming a more common penalty for misdemeanors and other non-violent crimes. Instead of being assigned time behind bars, a judge may impose probation, which includes a number of requirements. While avoiding time in custody can be beneficial, it also has some difficulties. For example, frequent drug tests are often mandatory, and even a simple slip-up can result in imprisonment. For this reason, it is important to understand the consequences for violating the terms of your probation.

If you have been assigned probation after being found guilty of a crime, you may be worried about violating the terms for your sentence. With years of experience in fighting for peoples’ rights, the Pittsburgh probation lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can give your case the best possible chance of success. We will evaluate every detail to prove that you did not violate the terms of your probation.

To find out how you can avoid the punishments for violating probation, call (412) 281-2146 now.

Violating Terms of Probation

Simply put, probation is a period of time during which you are supervised by the Pennsylvania Adult Probation Department. Probation comes with strict rules. If you are placed on probation, for example, you are not allowed to travel to certain areas, engage in certain activities, or interact with certain people. Common ways in which probation can be violated include:

  • Not showing up for scheduled court appearances
  • Not attending regular meetings with your probation officer
  • Engaging in drug-related activities or consuming alcohol
  • Refusing to pay court-ordered fines, restitution, or other costs
  • Being arrested for another crime
  • Traveling outside of the state of Pennsylvania

What Are the Consequences for Violating Probation in PA?

The penalties that are assigned for violating probation depend heavily on the type of violation. Missing a meeting with your probation officer, for example, may result in a warning. Relatively minor violations may also result in a court hearing – one in which you will be required to explain your actions. In most cases, an experienced attorney can help you explain that the violation was an honest mistake. If you are found guilty of violating the terms of your probation, however, you may face additional consequences.

One common punishment for violating probation is the extension of the probation period. This penalty is especially common for minor violations, such as disallowed travel or missing a meeting. The judge might also add terms that must be adhered to. They may state that you are not allowed to leave your home, or that you are only allowed to have contact with family members. The worst-case scenario involves spending time behind bars. What you may not realize is that probation can be easily revoked. This makes room for other penalties, such as imprisonment.

Parole Infractions vs. Probation Infractions

Although the expectations of a person on probation and a parolee are very similar, the consequences for violating either court order are very different. A person who is paroled has been released early from prison based on good behavior. A person on probation has been sentenced to no time in prison, but they are under strict monitoring for a certain period of time. If violated, probation can result in incarceration.

Technically, when you are paroled, you still are serving out the time you owe for the crime for which you were held guilty. If you are determined to have violated parole, you can be sentenced only up to the maximum amount of time originally on your sentence. For example, if you were sentenced to two years and get out after 12 months, you can be sent back to jail for another 12 months. Remember, though, the time you are on parole is not counted in the total time. Only the time you spent in jail matters.

If you are accused of a Pittsburgh probation infraction, the judge can restart your probation term entirely. This means that if you violate the terms of your probation in the last month of a 24-month probation term, the judge may sentence another 24 months, even though you had already served 23 months probation.

Gagnon Hearings

After you are accused of violating either parole or probation, you will go to two hearings known as “Gagnon hearings.” At these two hearings, the judge rules on whether or not a violation occurred and determines appropriate punishments.

The Gagnon I hearing, or the pre-revocation hearing, is an informal hearing in front of a hearing officer in the adult probation and parole office. Your probation or parole officer will present evidence on the alleged infraction, and the hearing officer will determine if there is probable cause that an infraction did indeed occur. This requires a very low burden of proof and will usually be satisfied.

You will then have a Gagnon II hearing. This is a formal hearing in front of a Court of Common Pleas Judge, who will ultimately decide on your infraction. Since this is not a criminal trial, it does not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but the burden of proof is higher than in a Gagnon I hearing.

If you are found guilty of an infraction, the judge will determine your consequences. The judge will consider all factors in your situation, revoke your probation or parole, and re-sentence you at the court’s discretion to additional probation, parole or jail time. Usually, the court will follow the recommendations of your probation or parole officer.

How a Pittsburgh Probation Lawyer Can Help

If you are being accused of violating the terms of your probation, it is important that you seek skilled legal representation right away. Once the charges are filed against you, you will be required to attend a probation hearing. Here, you have the chance to tell your side of the story. If you make your case with the help of legal representation, it is very likely that you can avoid going to jail or prison. One common courtroom strategy is claiming that you were unaware of the rule that was violated. For example, you might not have been told that you were required to remain within the state during your probation.

Regardless of the circumstance surrounding your case, you deserve to have your rights protected. According to state law, you have the right to be heard by a neutral judge if you are being accused of violating your probation. That means that our Pittsburgh probation attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can do everything in their power to protect your freedom.

Call (412) 281-2146 today to see how you can avoid the penalties of violating probation.