Paramus Criminal Defense Lawyer Representing Clients Who Face VOP Charges in Bergen County, NJ
Violation of Probation, or “VOP,” is a very serious offense in New Jersey. When a defendant in a criminal case is sentenced to probation, it is usually considered a major victory for the defendant. That’s because probation is a non-custodial sentence, which means that the offender is not incarcerated and is able to go on with their normal life and avoid spending time behind bars in prison or jail. However, a probationary sentence does not mean that the defendant can never be sent to jail. Probation in New Jersey comes with several requirements that are strictly enforced by NJ authorities. When a defendant pleads guilty, or is convicted, and subsequently receives a sentence of probation, they agree to follow all the rules of probation and not violate any terms imposed by the court. If a defendant later violates probation, their non-custodial sentence can be revoked, and they could be ordered by a judge to serve the rest of their sentence in prison.
These cases are often incredibly complicated, which is why you should immediately engage an attorney who is qualified to analyze every possible legal argument that could benefit you. Frank T. Luciano has represented countless individuals in Violation of Probation cases in Bergen County, Passaic County, Hudson County, and throughout New Jersey. Contact Mr. Luciano today to discuss your situation and explore your legal options. You can reach Frank T. Luciano by calling (973) 471-0004 or by filling out the online contact form.
You are also encouraged to download Mr. Luciano’s book on the NJ probationary statute, which covers the VOP law and the procedural process in New Jersey violation of probation cases.
What Are the Requirements for Probation in New Jersey?
A typical case involving a sentence of probation comes with a number of court-imposed requirements or conditions that the offender must meet. Some of these conditions may include:
- Don’t Commit Any Other Crimes: Under the terms of the NJ probation statute, you must lead a law-abiding life and stay out of further legal trouble. When you are sentenced to probation in a criminal case, you agree not to violate the law by committing any other criminal offenses during your probationary period. If you are later convicted of a new crime, not only can you be sentenced to jail time for that new crime, but you could also be sentenced to jail time for violating your probation in the original criminal matter.
- Report to Probation Officer: When you are placed on probation, you will be required to regularly report to a New Jersey probation officer (PO). Failure to report to your probation officer is a major violation. Not only is it important for you to attend every meeting with your probation officer, but you must also comply with all the terms of your probation to the satisfaction of your PO. And make sure that you are always on time for your meetings – or you could be reported for a violation.
- Show up for Court Dates: Even after your criminal case is resolved and you’ve been sentenced to probation, you may still have to appear in court for various matters. Failure to show up for a mandatory court date can result in your probation being revoked.
- Perform Community Service: It is common for offenders in the NJ criminal justice system to be ordered to perform a certain number of hours of community service as part of their sentence. Do not take this requirement lightly. Failure to perform court-ordered community service is likely to be reported to the judge and might constitute a violation of your probation. This means that you can wind up in prison if you don’t show up for community service.
- Maintain Employment: Many times, a defendant who receives a probationary sentence must maintain employment throughout their probationary period. If you don’t already have a job, you may be required to get a job so that you can demonstrate to the court that you are a productive, contributing member of society and that you are focused on doing positive work.
- Attend School: Sometimes, the offender is a college student who attends school on a full-time basis. If this is true in your case, the judge might elect to not impose a condition that you maintain employment so long as you remain in good standing at your college or university. However, failure to attend school under those circumstances would then be considered a violation of probation.
- Attend Counseling: When the defendant is sentenced to probation for a drug-related offense or for an offense precipitated by the use of alcohol, the court often orders the defendant to attend counseling for alcohol abuse or drug addiction. When the case involves an assault charge or some other physical confrontation, the defendant may be ordered to attend anger management classes as part of their probationary sentence. If you fail to attend court-ordered counseling, or if you are ousted from a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center, your next stop could be jail.
- Pass Regular Urine Tests: When an offender gets probation instead of a jail term, there is an expectation that the individual will avoid the use of illegal drugs. The offender may even be prohibited from drinking alcohol while on probation. You can expect to be administered urine tests throughout your probationary period – and you will be expected to pass every test. If even a single test shows dirty urine, you will fail the alcohol or drug screening and risk having your probation revoked.
- Abide by Curfew: Some offenders, particularly younger offenders, are required to avoid staying out late at night as part of their probationary sentence. This requirement is typically put in place to ensure that the person on probation is able to stay out of trouble.
- Remain in the State: A person who is on probation must get permission from the court before leaving New Jersey for any reason. If you are caught crossing state lines while on probation, it could be considered a major violation of the terms of your probation.
- Pay Restitution: Depending on the circumstances of the original criminal matter, you may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim. Failure to pay restitution can constitute a violation of probation.
- Pay Fines: Your sentence may include fines and other court-related costs associated with your case. The failure to pay these fines could result in your probation being revoked.
The requirements for probation vary on a case-by-case basis, with NJ judges being granted a great deal of leeway and flexibility to impose conditions as they see fit. This means that a person convicted on drug possession charges or a DWI offense is probably more likely to be ordered to attend drug or alcohol abuse counseling sessions as a condition of their bail, while a person who pleads guilty to vandalism or destruction of property may be more likely to be ordered to perform community service.
Will I Go to Jail for a Probation Violation in New Jersey?
According to the NJ violation of probation statute, there are three (3) main ways that a person can violate the terms of their probation:
- Being convicted of a subsequent offense.
- Being arrested subsequent to the imposition of probation.
- Failing to comply with a material condition of the probationary term.
The most common violation of probation in New Jersey is the third category: failure to comply with one of the conditions of your probation. Under New Jersey law, a criminal defendant can be sentenced to a term of probation that lasts up to five (5) years. This means that you may be required to meet court-imposed probationary conditions for a very long time before you are truly “free” to move on with your life. Think of probation as a “suspended sentence,” with your jail sentence being suspended on the condition that you abide by certain terms and conditions during your probationary period. Failure to meet even a single condition of your probation might constitute a Violation of Probation. The judge in your case will then have the option to revoke your probation and order you to serve a maximum sentence in prison.
If you are sentenced to probation at the conclusion of your NJ criminal case, you must regularly report to a probation officer (“PO”) who will supervise your probation and ensure that you are meeting all the requirements. The probation officer will keep track of you and file a report with the court to indicate whether you are attending counseling sessions, performing community service, passing urine tests, and complying with any other terms set forth by the court for your probation. While many probation officers are friendly and have good relationships with the offender, most probation officers will not hesitate to report even a minor violation to the judge. Do not make the mistake of believing that the PO won’t report you to the court simply because you are “friends.” And if you are charged with a violation of probation, make sure that you speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Violation of Probation Hearings:
When your probation officer reports you for a probation violation by filing a Violation of Probation complaint, the court is likely to schedule a VOP hearing. Failure to appear at this hearing will usually result in the judge issuing a bench warrant for your arrest. When the VOP hearing does occur, there will be some similarities to what happens at a New Jersey criminal trial – as well as some very important differences. For instance, you do not have a right to a trial by jury in a New Jersey VOP proceeding. Additionally, the standard of proof for the prosecution is much lower at a VOP hearing, meaning that the prosecutor will have an easier time proving that you violated the terms of your probation. The VOP hearing can be incredibly complicated and involves many nuances that tend to require the assistance of an attorney who has experience in this unique legal forum and with these types of cases. The best way to win your NJ VOP hearing is to have a qualified attorney on your side.
A knowledgeable lawyer can also help you take proactive measures before the VOP hearing so that the judge is less inclined to punish you for a probation violation. For instance, if you had a relapse and failed a urine test during your probationary period, an attorney who understands the legal system might advise you to enter a voluntary drug or alcohol treatment program and demonstrate to the court that you are serious about your addiction recovery. Similarly, an attorney with experience in these types of VOP cases might gather evidence in advance of the hearing to show that your probation violation was caused by an emergency or some other unavoidable conflict, or argue that your history of compliance should not be overlooked in light of just one minor violation. Keep in mind, however, that even a single unintentional or accidental violation of a material term is still technically a violation and can result in your probationary period being extended or, in the worst cases, your probation being terminated early and the judge sentencing you to jail time. The judge may modify the terms of your probation, add an additional term or condition to your probation, or resentence you in accordance with the original conviction. This means that you could be looking at a lengthy term of incarceration if you violate the terms of your probation, particularly if you were originally convicted of a felony-level crime that carried prison time.
Free Consultation with Experienced NJ Probation Violation Lawyer Frank T. Luciano
Have you been accused of violating your probation in New Jersey? If so, you face serious penalties that could include a lengthy prison sentence. Right now, you need a qualified criminal defense lawyer who has experience representing defendants at probation violation hearings. Frank T. Luciano is a skilled NJ criminal defense attorney who has spent decades fighting on behalf of clients charged with Violation of Probation throughout New Jersey. He is prepared to build the strongest possible defense for you so that you can stay out of jail. Contact Mr. Luciano today to schedule a free consultation about your VOP case.