Yes, a probation officer has the freedom and flexibility to choose when to file against a defendant for failing to comply with the terms of the defendant’s probation.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can a Probation Officer Wait to Violate You? (Explained)
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What Are The Duties Of a Probation Officer?
A probation officer’s job is to supervise the offenders under his supervision.
The court (and statutes) define the scope of what the defendant has to do (and can’t do).
The probation officer helps make sure that the defendant is compliant, and if the defendant is not compliant, is the primary person responsible for bringing the case back in front of the court in conjunction with the prosecutor’s office.
While different agencies and jurisdictions have different procedures, probation officers generally have a lot of flexibility in going about their duties.
In the end, the probation officer’s job is to do what he can to help the defendant succeed on probation.
Sometimes that help comes in the form of encouragement, or referrals to services.
Sometimes that help comes in the form of a probation violation proceeding.
What is a Probation Violation Proceeding?
A probation violation proceeding (aka PV) is an official court proceeding.
The probation officer sends a report to the prosecution, and the prosecution files PV allegations against the defendant.
If the defendant is out of custody, a warrant for his appearance will be issued.
The defendant may make arrangements to appear voluntarily to clear the warrant, or he may be taken into custody and be brought to court.
While some of the defendant’s rights no longer apply (given that he has already been sentenced), he does have the right to have an attorney represent him and defend against the PV allegations.
The defendant can admit to the allegations or request a hearing.
If the defendant is found to be in violation, the court has the ability to sanction the defendant, to do nothing, to modify the terms of probation, or to even revoke probation and sentence the defendant to a term of jail.
Sanctions can include short periods of jail, community service, an extension of the probationary period, or additional rules/structure during the term of probation.
Reasons Why a Probation Officer Might Wait To File a PV Report
The probation officer’s goal is to have his “clients” successfully complete probation.
If the client/defendant/offender is honestly trying his best to stay compliant, then the probation officer will likely continue to try and work with that individual to get him complaint.
For example, if the defendant were to miss a meeting with the probation officer because he had an exam at school or was at work, the probation officer might just verbally admonish the defendant and remind him to call in rather than just failing to appear.
If the defendant failed to get to a meeting because his car broke down, the PO isn’t going to immediately run down and file a report to violate the defendant.
However, if the defendant shows a pattern of non-compliance, the PO is likely to violate him.
Certain activities are likely to encourage the PO to violate a defendant, like committing new offenses, putting the public in danger, or even putting the defendant himself in danger.
it is important to note that while the PV proceeding can involve sanctions (like a short stint in jail) the general goal is to figure out how to put the defendant on track to complete probation successfully.
PVs are often an opportunity for the probation officer to get help and guidance from the court.
Many defendants go through multiple PVs before their probation is completely terminated and exchanged for a lengthy jail sentence.
This is not to say that a defendant should not follow the rules or do his absolute best, because it is in his best interests to try his hardest.
But the probation officer is not always going to rush to file a PV against a defendant for small things, and may wait to proceed (and has the power to wait to proceed) with a PV for any number of reasons.
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