Probation Violation Attorney In Des Moines
If you think your probation officer thinks you violated your probation -- or if that warrant or notice of revocation hearing has already been issued -- go ahead and call a criminal defense attorney to talk about your options. We represent clients on probation violations throughout Iowa, including in Polk County (Des Moines, West Des Moines, etc.), Story County (Ames), and elsewhere.
You can click the "contact us" link down there in the bottom right corner to chat with one of us right away if we're available. If you don't get an answer right away, we're likely with another client, and you can get in touch with us by calling (515) 200-2787.
If your probation officer thinks you violated the terms of your probation, she or he can file a violation report. Once the court reviews the probation officer's violation report, they will probably put out a warrant for your arrest or send you a notice of revocation hearing.
If you're arrested on a warrant for violating probation, there may be a "no bond" provision. A "no bond" provision means that you aren't eligible to bond out of jail until you talk to a judge. This means you could be sitting in jail for a day or two waiting to see a judge, even if you have money ready to bond back out.
You can violate the terms of your probation in a lot of different ways. You could spend time around people your PO has told you to stay away from, you could leave the state without permission or stop responding to your probation officer, you could fail a drug test, you could be seen in a bar when you aren't allowed to be where alcohol is served, you could get accused of a new crime, you could fail to report an interaction with law enforcement, or any of a pile of other things.
What is probation?
Probation is defined in Iowa Code 907.1. You're on "probation" when you're released from jail but you're still under supervision by the court or by someone assigned by the court. When you're on probation, you usually have a probation officer and have to agree, in writing, to certain terms of probation. Violating these terms constitutes a "probation violation."
The conditions of your probation will vary from case to case and from officer to officer, but generally, when you're on probation, you give up your right to be free from searches, can't leave the state without telling your probation officer in advance and getting permission, and can't associate with criminals.
The court gets a lot of latitude in deciding what the conditions of your probation are. There are a lot of conditions that they can assign to you. You might find a lot of these conditions unfair. Commonly, defendants feel hurt when the court tells them that they can't have contact with their boyfriend or girlfriend anymore. Conditions like these are almost always "legal," though. This is the price of being released from jail, and you shouldn't violate these conditions.
The court has broad authority to determine what conditions are "reasonable" to protect the community or promote your rehabilitation.
How Long Does Probation Last?
Usually, for misdemeanors, probation lasts 1-2 years for misdemeanors and 2-5 years for felonies. There are ways the court can add time to your probation for violating it.
The court will consider how long it will take to rehabilitate you, how long it'll take to be able to assess whether you've been rehabilitated, and what sort of risk you pose to the community.
Can I Get Off Probation Early?
The court can choose to shorten your probation if you've paid all your fines and court costs and if the court thinks you've been rehabilitated. This usually happens at a probation officer's recommendation. If your probation officer doesn't think you're a good candidate to get off probation early, it probably won't happen.
What Happens at a Probation Violation Hearing?
Probation violation hearings (probation revocation hearings) aren't as formal as most court appearances. You still have due process rights at these hearings, but your rights aren't as extensive as they were during the pre-conviction (or pre-sentencing) criminal process.
The court will review why your probation officer filed a violation report and then they will, with all likelihood, decide that you violated probation.
You or your attorney can argue that the factual basis for the violation isn't there, that there was "good cause" for the violation (like if you missed a meeting with your probation officer because you'd been in a serious car accident and were hospitalized and didn't have phone access at the time of the meeting), and/or what punishment is appropriate.
How Much Proof Do They Need to Revoke Probation?
The court has to have a reason to revoke your probation. They can't revoke probation just because your probation officer is in a bad mood or finds out that you're from wherever the sportsball team they just hate is from.
That said, they don't need a very significant (to you) infraction to revoke your probation and they don't have to prove things "beyond a reasonable doubt," which was what you were entitled to in a criminal trial. All they need is "preponderance of the evidence," which means that they believe that it's more likely than not that you violated probation.
This lower "preponderance of the evidence" standard is something you should consider when you're thinking about whether to accept a plea bargain that involves probation in the first place. If you're the sort of someone who can't help but get in trouble, probation may be a bad call for you from the beginning. A probation violation may put you in worse trouble than you'd have been in if your attorney had negotiated for a sentence involving jail time from the start.
You also won't have the same rules of evidence at your probation revocation hearing. At your trial, your attorney could object that certain evidence was "hearsay" -- the state couldn't necessarily rely on out of court statements to prove that you did what those statements said that you did. At your probation revocation hearing, the court can rely on hearsay. As long as the "factual basis" for your revocation doesn't rely entirely on hearsay, it's probably adequate.
New Charges While on Probation
Criminal activity invariably violates probation. They can, however, decide to stick you in jail without bail until the new charges are figured out.
Punishment for Violating Probation
The court may choose not to revoke your probation. They may sentence you to up to 6 months of contempt time, order you to pay a fine, or simply continue you on probation.
If you had a deferred judgment, your deferred judgment can be revoked (which means, among other things, that your charge won't come off your criminal record once you've successfully completed probation, because you didn't successfully complete probation.) The court can sentence you to anything that they could have sentenced you to before. That means if you could've been sentenced to up to five years before but they gave you a deferred judgment instead, they could now give you the whole five year sentence if they want to.
If you had a suspended sentence, you might now have to do the jail time or pay the fine that the court suspended.