Being charged with violating the terms of your probation is a serious offense, one that can often result in extended jail time. If you have been accused or are worried about a pending violation of your probation or community control in Northwest Florida, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side to help you effectively fight these charges to keep you out of jail.
My name is Tim Flaherty. Since 2001, I have been defending clients charged with violating probation in Fort Walton Beach and the surrounding areas. My partner Brandy Merrifield has worked with me since 2007. Brandy and I are knowledgeable defense lawyers, and we're ready to put our legal expertise and trial experience to work to help you resolve your case.
Understanding the Burden of Proof in Probation Violation Cases
The burden of proof that the prosecutor has to meet for a Violation of Probation (VOP) is a lower burden than a regular criminal case. A regular case requires the State to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For a VOP, they only have to prove it by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that they only have to show that it is slightly more likely than not that you violated your probation.
One piece of advice: If you have a violation pending, you must continue to report as usual to your probation officer. If you don't, that can be an additional violation.
Common Probation/Community Control Violations
If you have been charged with VOP or Violation of Community Control (VOCC), it is probably for one or more of the following reasons:
- Failing to report to a monthly meeting
- Being arrested for a secondary offense
- Moving or changing residences without receiving approval ahead of time
- Breaking a no-contact order
- Failing to pay necessary fines or costs
- Failing a urinalysis or breath test
- Breaking any other term or condition of your probation.
Should any of the above occur, a judge will be presented with a warrant application and affidavit of violation. Once the judge reviews and signs the warrant application, the warrant becomes active, and you can be arrested.
Getting a Bond for a VOP or VOCC
In most criminal cases, there is a presumption that you are entitled to a reasonable bond. The court will look at two issues before setting the bond amount:
- Is the person a danger to the community?
- Is the person a flight risk?
VOP and VOCC cases are different.
Not only are you NOT entitled to a bond for a VOP or VOCC, but, oftentimes, when the judge signs an arrest warrant for these offenses, there will not be a bond set. In most cases, for a chance at bond, you'll need to see a judge for your first appearance hearing. If the judge declines to set bond at this hearing, you will be forced to remain in jail until we can get you in front of the judge assigned to your case for a bond hearing.
Either way, we'll be at your first appearance hearing to argue for your release and get a bond hearing set as soon as possible. We do not want our clients to sit in jail for one minute longer than necessary.
Defending Florida VOP or VOCC Cases
There are two main ways to defend these cases:
- Deny the violation and demand an evidentiary hearing. You don't have the right to a trial by jury in a VOP case, but you do have the right to have your case heard by the judge. Both sides can present evidence, and the judge will decide. In order for the judge to find you guilty of VOP or VOCC, they must make a legal finding that the violation was willful and substantial. That is the legal standard. Obviously, we will argue on your behalf and try to make the argument that the violation was neither.
- Admit that you violated your supervision and ask the judge for a sentencing hearing. We've had a lot of success with this approach in the past. At a sentencing hearing, we will be allowed to present any evidence we want the judge to consider.
Talk to Us About Your Case
At Flaherty & Merrifield, we know what it takes to defend Florida VOP and VOCC cases. Let us protect your rights and future. Call us today at 850-374-6273 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case, explore your legal options, and determine what's best for you and your situation. We look forward to assisting you.