A conviction for a violent crime, drug offense or other violation of the law can mean spending months or years behind bars. Even a first-offense DUI can mean up to a year in jail in Maryland. However, following your conviction, you may have been fortunate to receive a sentence of probation.
Probation means you will serve your sentence outside of jail. You may live at home with your family and continue your normal life as much as possible. However, probation does not mean you have no consequences. Your actions must remain within the limitations of your court order. Knowing and understanding the terms of your probation is essential because to violate those terms could result in severe penalties.
Common probationary terms
At your sentencing, the judge likely explained to you the terms under which you would serve your probation. You must comply with these terms for a certain time, typically up to three years, instead of spending that time in jail. The judge assigned a probation officer to oversee your case and ensure you remain within the restrictions, which may have included any of the following or others:
- Showing up for any scheduled court appearances
- Paying any fines or restitution as the court instructed
- Avoiding contact with certain people or staying away from any places the judge ordered
- Refraining from the use or possession of illegal drugs
- Avoiding any legal infractions, even those as minor as traffic violations
- Meeting regularly with your probation officer
Your probation officer will play an important role in your life during this time and may, in fact, determine whether a probation violation is serious enough to warrant more than just a warning. If you should violate the terms of your probation, you may find yourself standing in front of the same judge who sentenced you. You will have the right to present evidence and witnesses to defend yourself or to offer an explanation to mitigate your actions.
The judge will have several options, including adding community service to your sentence, revoking your probation and even adding additional time to your sentence, depending on the circumstances of the supposed violation. Because you have much at stake when facing charges of violating your probation, you certainly want every advantage for achieving the most positive outcome possible. Having an experienced attorney as your ally may improve your chances of reaching this goal.