Everything You Want to Know About Probation Violations in SC
You had a little legal hiccup in the past, and now you’re on probation. You’ve tried to be good, but now you’re facing a charge that could put your probation in jeopardy.
Maybe you had some drugs in your possession, got in a bar fight, or were accused of a criminal offense you didn’t commit.
Or perhaps you just missed a meeting with your probation officer (P.O.) or fell behind on your community service hours.
Regardless of how you got into this situation, you need to understand how probation violations are dealt with in South Carolina.
Below we’ll cover:
- Basics of Probation Violations in SC
- Probation Violation Warrants
- Probation Violation Hearings
- Probation Violation Sentencing
- Common Questions About Probation Violations
Let’s jump right in!
Understanding the Basics of Probation Violations in SC
First, let’s understand what it means to “violate your probation.”
South Carolina law has some specific probation conditions all probationers must follow, including adherence to all local, state and federal laws; refraining from drug use; and performing community service. A judge can choose to omit some of the standard conditions if he or she thinks it is necessary.
In addition to these standard terms, a judge may also put special conditions on your probation that are specific to you and your criminal conviction.
If a probationer does not comply with any of these standard or special conditions, he or she has violated probation and authorities will address the infraction.
There are two types of probation violation that you should be aware of:
- The first occurs when you neglect to follow through with a condition of your probation. For instance, you skip a mandatory meeting with probation officers or fail a drug test.
- The second type of probation violation happens if you commit a new crime while on probation. Say you’re on probation for a burglary conviction, and you’re arrested for shoplifting a few months after being put on probation. This new crime violates the terms of your probation.
If you violate your probation, the consequences you face can range from minimal to severe. Penalties for the violation are determined by the probation office or a judge, and could include probation revocation, which means jail time.
Relatively minor probation violations can be handled administratively by the local probation department. You could get a warning from your P.O., or you may pay fines.
More serious violations are handled by a judge. In such a case, the judge may choose to send you to prison and/or strip your probation credit.
Probation Violation Warrants
If you’re accused of violating your probation and have yet to be arrested, a judge may issue an arrest warrant. This kind of warrant is called a “bench warrant” and means that you must appear before the judge to answer for the probation violation charge.
As with other arrest warrants, a police officer will use it as justification to arrest you. Once arrested, you’ll be taken to county jail until your bond hearing. The bond hearing is where the judge will determine if you can be released on bail—and at what cost. If you’re allowed this temporary release, you’ll be “out on bail” until your probation violation hearing. Otherwise, you must remain in jail until your probation violation is resolved.
Probation Violation Hearings
If your violation is being handled by a judge, you will appear in court for a hearing. A prosecutor, usually your probation agent, will present evidence about your violation, and you will have an opportunity to respond to the charges.
Your probation officer can often make or break your case. For that reason, it’s always beneficial to maintain as good a relationship as possible with your PO.
Your probation violation lawyer may decide to refute the charges or try to minimize your actions. This second approach is an attempt to mitigate the severity of what you did in the hopes of getting a lighter punishment from the judge. Examples of mitigating factors can include a good record of employment, a good school record if you are a student, and more.
Probation Violation Sentencing
Because of judicial discretion, there are many possible hearing outcomes. The judge has complete control over how a probation violator is sentenced. Whatever the judge says, goes.
In deciding sentencing, a judge will take into consideration the circumstances of your violation, along with:
- Your original criminal case
- Prior violations
- Prior convictions
- Your family situation and support system
- Your living situation
- Your employment
- If you’re enrolled in school
A judge isn’t limited to jail time as a probation violation penalty. A judge has many more options available, including:
- Prison time
- Revocation of probation
- Extend the duration of your probation
- Add additional conditions on your probation
- Ankle monitoring
- House arrest
- Dismissal of the probation violation, etc.
The judge may also simply continue with current probation sentence (sort of like “time served”). But again, it is all up to him or her.
Common Questions About Probation Violations
If you have been accused of violating your probation, it can be hard to keep all the legal proceedings straight. You’re bound to have questions about the legal processes you’re going through. Here are answers to the most common questions probation violators have asked me.
1. What happens to my new charge that caused the violation?
If you’re charged with a new crime, you still have to deal with it just like you did the charge that put you on probation. The fact that you’re on probation adds a layer of complexity to your situation, and by no means does the new charge simply go away. It just means that you now have two different things to deal with - the new charge and the probation violation resulting from your previous charge. It’s often beneficial to handle both the new charge and the violation at the same time to avoid having two separate sentencings.
2. Is a probation violation a felony or misdemeanor?
A probation violation charge isn’t a misdemeanor or felony per se. The classification of the charge causing the probation violation could be a misdemeanor or felony depending on what you are being charged with.
3. Does it matter whether I’m on probation for a misdemeanor or a felony when I violated?
Whether you’re on probation for a misdemeanor conviction or a felony conviction could matter. The judge will take all facts into consideration. Felonies are more serious than misdemeanors, so the judge is likely to give stiffer penalties for felony probation violations than for misdemeanor ones. Felony probation violators are more likely to spend time with the department of corrections.
4. Does failing a drug test violate probation?
Yes, failing a drug test violates probation. Being able to pass a drug test at any time is required for all probationers.
5. Do probation violation warrants expire?
Probation warrants do not expire. Eventually, you will face your probation violation charge once the police catch up with you.
6. Are traffic violations probation violations?
Traffic violations can sometimes be probation violations. This depends on the conditions of your probation. If you’re on probation after a DUI, a traffic violation might be something a judge will look upon harshly. If you’re on probation for a crime that has nothing to do with operating a vehicle, you may be okay regarding your probation. But every case is different.
7. Can a probation violation be dismissed?
Yes, it’s possible for a probation violation to be dismissed. The judge may find that you did nothing wrong or think your violation doesn’t deserve punishment beyond your existing probation. Your attorney can help you work with you and the judge to reach the best outcome possible.
If you have been accused of violating your probation, you need a criminal defense attorney to represent you and help you answer the charges. My law firm is here to help you. For a free consultation, call 803-779-4472 to discuss your case.
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