February 20th, 2023

On Probation? You Still Have Rights

For those who have entered a guilty plea or have been convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania, probation often is part of sentencing requirements. Probation enables defendants to remain in their communities, but there are certain conditions and rules that must be followed. At Gross McGinley, LLP, our criminal defense attorneys help clients understand their rights and the impact being on probation may have on their lives.

Types of Probation in PA

A judge may place a person on probation instead of sentencing them to jail time, or a defendant may be released on probation after being incarcerated. The key purpose of probation is to give offenders the opportunity for rehabilitation and to become productive members of society. There are different types of probation in Pennsylvania. Each one has its own specific requirements, and terms of probation often are left to the discretion of the judge.

  • Supervised probation requires an offender to report to a probation officer periodically. How often you’ll have to report depends on the specific requirements of your probation. This could mean meeting with your probation officer weekly, checking in monthly, or whatever is required according to the terms of your probation. For example, if you are on probation for a DUI conviction, you likely will be prohibited from consuming alcohol during the term of your probation.
  • Intensive supervised probation is exactly as its name implies – it involves much more supervision by a probation officer than other types of probation in Pennsylvania. Offenders typically must meet with their probation officer a minimum of eight to 12 times per month. You also may be required to respond to your probation officer 24/7, be employed or enrolled in vocational training, perform community service, and attend drug or alcohol treatment. In some cases, offenders also may be required to adhere to a curfew.
  • Shock probation is probation that follows a short period of incarceration. It is intended to “shock” people into following their probation terms and keep them from returning to jail.
  • Unsupervised probation requires you to adhere to the terms of your probation as ordered by the court, but you don’t have to report to a probation officer. Although unsupervised probation is granted for minor offenses, you can be placed on supervised probation or go to jail if you violate the terms of unsupervised probation.

Understanding the Terms of Your Probation

Regardless of which type of probation you’re on, it’s crucial to understand what is expected of you to avoid violations. If you are unclear about any of the terms of your probation, make sure to ask your probation officer what they mean. Our criminal defense attorneys also can help you understand the conditions of your probation and answer any questions you may have. Common conditions of probation include:

  • Reporting to your probation officer as required and/or allowing them to visit you at home or work
  • Obeying all local, state, and federal laws
  • Notifying your probation officer right away if you are arrested or ticketed by police
  • Immediately informing your probation officer of any change of address or employment
  • Submitting to random drug and alcohol testing
  • Participating in certain forms of treatment for anger management, substance use disorder, or sex offenses
  • Responding promptly to any summons to appear in court
  • Paying restitution, fines, costs, and supervision fees
  • Paying financial obligations such as court-ordered child support
  • Electronic surveillance via ankle bracelet
  • You are prohibited from possessing any firearm, ammunition or other possess any firearm, ammunition, or forbidden weapon
  • You are not permitted to travel outside of Pennsylvania without written permission from your probation officer
  • You may not possess or use any controlled substances unless they are legally prescribed for a medical need

You also must submit to any identification procedures if required by law, including fingerprinting, photographs, or DNA. In some cases, offenders are required to undergo an assessment to determine their supervision needs and whether certain programs may be helpful to them.

Probation Violations

Typically, standards for what constitutes a probation violation vary by county in Pennsylvania. You may be charged with a technical violation if you fail to meet the terms and conditions of your probation. If you violate your conditions or you’re arrested for another crime while on probation, your probation officer can place you on a detainer, which means authorities can hold you in jail until a judge determines whether charges for the violation will be dropped or if additional penalties will be imposed.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

If you’ve been accused of violating your probation, it’s vital to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. In most criminal cases, prosecutors must meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the burden of proof for probation violations is a preponderance of the evidence, which is a different standard in criminal law. It means they only have to prove that the allegation is more likely true than not.

Having a criminal defense lawyer represent you at a probation violation hearing gives you the best chance to successfully refute the allegations or lessen any penalties. Our team can help you prepare for your violation hearing and provide compelling arguments that back up claims that you did not violate your probation or that it was necessary due to an emergency situation or another mitigating circumstance.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

At Gross McGinley, LLP, our criminal defense lawyers handle all types of cases involving probation and parole violations. If you have questions about probation in Pennsylvania or you’ve been accused of violating your probation, contact us online or call 610-820-5450 to schedule a consultation.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.