Probation violations in Michigan are difficult situations to handle. When an individual is placed on probation instead of going to prison or jail, they are effectively given a second chance. However, with this comes a series of rules, regulations and routines that they must follow in order to stay in good graces with the courts. Submitting to regular drug testing, routine check-ins with probation officers and requirements to hold a job are all to be expected when an individual is on probation. In certain circumstances, probation may also involve restraining or no contact orders.
However life is not always predictable and there are times when individuals may violate their probation, resulting in considerable legal consequences. When this scary situation occurs, many individuals panic as they are afraid of being incarcerated or having additional restrictions placed upon them. For those who are facing probation violations, it is important to understand the different types of probation and how this process takes place.
Types of Probation Violations
In the State of Michigan, there are many ways in which probation and parole can be violated. When an individual is on probation, they are assigned a probation officer that they must check in with on a regular basis in order to meet the terms of their probation. As mentioned previously, there are multiple requirements that a court can order to be part of a probation. Failure to meet any of these requirements can result in a probation violation, which carries serious legal consequences including the possibility of jail time.
Out of all these ways in which probation can be violated, there are several ones that are regularly encountered. To begin with, the most obvious violation is being convicted of a new crime, such as drunk driving or theft. Other violations include things such as testing positive for drugs or alcohol, as well as things such as not reporting a change in address or employment. Another one is failure to report contact with law enforcement, regardless of the reason. Missing court appointments or required meetings with a probation officer can result in a violation as well. Failure to pay required fines to courts or failure to participate in a court ordered program such as rehab or therapy is another type of violation.
Consequences for Violations
The consequences for violations vary depending on the particular individual’s terms of probation. This is usually at the discretion of the presiding judge, who oversees the district courts probation process. While consequences for violations are wide ranging, there are several common scenarios that one should expect when they violate the terms of their probation.
The most common result of a probation violation is the extension of probation time itself. Additionally, the conditions of the probation are sometimes modified or even expanded. Jail time is a distinct possibility, with up to 93 days of incarceration on top of still having to serve probation. For others, the probation itself can be revoked and the judge can then re-sentence the individual for the underlying offense they are on probation for. All of these are serious situations that can make an individual’s life substantially more challenging.
For certain individuals, there is the possibility that a positive outcome can result from a violation. Although rare, in certain circumstances a judge may be inclined to give an individual an unsuccessful discharge of their probation with no further punishment. There is also the possibility that a judge will give a simple verbal reprimand or warning without any formal punishment, allowing the probation to continue as planned.
Recent Changes to Probation in Michigan
There have been several big changes to probation in Michigan, thanks to new probation reform legislation signed into law by Governor Whitmer as part of a host of criminal justice reform provisions, with an aim of improving Michigan’s criminal justice laws and procedures. One of the notable changes concerns probation periods, and comes after Michigan continued to be overwhelmed with the amount of people who have been on court supervision and probation in the state. Here’s more on what to anticipate with the new law.
Changes To Probation Terms
Studies have indicated that there are significant extra costs related to keeping people on probation longer than necessary. Those costs have been defended over the years on the basis that probation protects public safety. But in many instances, people were being kept on probation for far too long and it was not providing any measurable effect to public safety.
The new reforms change the probation period for felonies from five years to three years. The three-year term under the new law may be extended two times for no more than one additional year if the court finds that there is a specific rehabilitation goal that has not been achieved or a specific, articulable, and ongoing risk to a victim that can be addressed with ongoing supervision. The probation period for misdemeanors will now be two years.
The reforms also provide for people to request an early end to their probation once they have completed at least half of their original probation term. The early modification of probation can be done merely on petition and without a hearing. However, with misdemeanors and felonies that involve a specific victim who has previously requested a notice of discharge from the court, a hearing would be scheduled in order to hear from the victim regarding a defendant’s early ending. In order for a defendant to achieve an early discharge, the following has to occur:
- All conditions of probation are completed;
- There have been no violations of probation within three months of the discharge; and
- Non-payment of a fine does not automatically make the probationer ineligible for early termination.
Ensuring Early Probation Discharge Under The New Law
There are certain things that individuals can do to help improve the chances of getting an early discharge from probation:
- Be careful not to have any contact with the police. You do not want to be investigated or arrested for any violation of law. This includes any incidents or arrests in other states as well. Be careful of the people you hang around with. You may be accidentally swept up in an investigation and arrest that you had nothing to do with, but were involved merely because of the company you kept.
- Communicate with your probation officer all of the time and make sure they know where you are. Do not leave the state unless you get specific permission. If there are any changes to your probation terms or exceptions, get them in writing for later use if necessary.
- Show up early for meetings with your parole officer. If there is a conflict with your schedule for work or some other legitimate excuse, make sure to let the parole officer know well in advance.
- Make every attempt to pay the fines, court costs, and restitution. Paying restitution to any victims, or making a good faith attempt to pay restitution, goes a long way in showing to the court that you have been reformed and accept responsibility for your actions.
- Complete community service as soon as possible and without complaint. This will demonstrate to the court that you are taking seriously your need to pay back the community.
- Make sure to fully participate and complete any court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment program. Don’t just go through the motions. The goal is to actually learn something from the programs and come out a better person.
- If you are subject to electronic monitoring, follow the rules. Do not miss curfew, enter restricted areas, tamper with the unit or contact any prohibited individuals. If the victim in your case now wants to have contact with you, don’t engage without written permission from the court.
- Get and stay gainfully employed. If you are not yet employed, keep track of all of the places you have applied for employment. Demonstrate to the court that you are doing everything possible to find a job.
- Have a good, experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney to help you with the early discharge process. Your attorney will be able to present all of the positive things you have accomplished in the best light. It is well worth the money to hire a lawyer to walk you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected. You’ll want to be afforded all of the opportunities the law allows.
Hiring an Probation Attorney
Probation violations are usually unpleasant and complex matters that should not be handled by individuals on their own. Because probation violations carry the potential for serious consequences, it is important that those who find themselves in these situations retain legal counsel to ensure the best possible outcome. A criminal defense attorney specializing in probation violations will be able to analyze the circumstances surrounding the violation and formulate an effective strategy to protect your future.
At George Law, our skilled and highly experienced criminal defense attorneys have decades of combined experience working with individuals facing probation and parole violations. Our unique, hands on approach has successfully helped individuals avoid extra legal hassles and concerns as a result of often accidental or unintentional violations of their parole or probation. If you are in need of legal counsel surrounding these matters, please contact our office today to find out how we can best help.
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