When you face criminal charges, your criminal defense attorney can work in many ways to keep you out of jail. In most cases, an alternative sentence to imprisonment may be available in the form of probation. Illinois has three different types of “probation” sentences:
- Disposition of court supervision – This option is available for many traffic and misdemeanor violations. The court does not enter a conviction but instead, places you under supervision for a period of time. If you successfully complete your supervision, the court can dismiss the charges, which is extremely beneficial because no conviction will appear on your criminal record.
- Conditional discharge – While court supervision is not an option in felony cases, a judge may sentence you to “conditional discharge.” You may think that this means the court will discharge your case at the end of your probation, however, this is not the case. The name of the sentence can be confusing. Conditional discharge instead refers to “non-reporting” probation. You will not have to report to a probation officer, but you will still have to comply with any conditions set by the court.
- Probation – The next step before a prison sentence is probation. Judges may sentence probation instead of jail time for many offenses except Class X felonies, first-degree murder, or certain Class 1 felonies. Probation will require you to report to a probation officer who oversees your behavior and enforces the conditions of your probation. If you successfully complete probation, you complete your sentence.
All three types of probation in Illinois will involve conditions—some stricter than others. However, if authorities allege that you violated any conditions, you could find yourself right back in criminal court facing harsh consequences. Illinois law takes probation violations seriously. The statute orders that:
“[T]o protect the public, the criminal justice system must compel compliance with the conditions of probation by responding to violations with swift, certain and fair punishments and intermediate sanctions. The Chief Judge of each circuit shall adopt a system of structured, intermediate sanctions for violations of the terms and conditions of a sentence of probation, conditional discharge or disposition of supervision.”
Even though probation violations mean possible sanctions—and even imprisonment, too—many people try to face this type of case on their own. You may not believe a probation violation is a serious as a criminal conviction or you may not want to contact the defense attorney who handled your initial criminal charges. In any event, we want to remind you how important it is to have skilled defense representation after being accused of violating your probation. This process can be quite different from an initial criminal case, though the consequences are very real.
Common Probation Violations
Individuals serving court supervision or conditional discharge will have significantly fewer requirements to meet. The primary condition of such probation terms is not to get in trouble with the law. If you avoid arrest or new criminal charges, you will likely complete your sentence successfully.
A sentence of probation can be an entirely different story. Often, probationers must comply with a long list of conditions that both require them to take certain action and prevent them from other activities. The conditions of each probation will differ, as the court and probation officer can set specific conditions tailored to the allegations of the case. In addition, the prosecutor can request specific conditions if they agree to propose probation as part of a plea bargain.
Some common probation conditions include:
- Weekly reporting to a probation officer, either in person or via telephone
- Home visits by the probation officer (sometimes, unannounced)
- Abstention from drug use, with regular and/or random drug testing
- Maintaining employment or attendance at school
- Community service
- Mental health evaluation and treatment
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
- Participation in an anger management program
- Reporting new residences and asking permission to move to certain locations
- Not associating or communicating with certain individuals known for criminal activity
- Not visiting certain locations
- No run-ins with police, arrests, or new criminal cases
The Adult Probation Department supervises probationers in Illinois, and you will have a specific probation officer. This officer will work to ensure you comply with all special conditions. Other organizations may also participate in supervision, including the Adult Sex Offender Program, the Domestic Violence Unit, the Mental Health Unit, Intensive Probation Supervision, Intensive Drug Program, or other inpatient or outpatient programs you must attend.
Whether you have minimal or extensive conditions, compliance is critical. If a supervising party believes you committed a violation, they can report it to the court overseeing your case. Commonly reported violations include:
- Not reporting to your probation officer as required
- Failing drug tests or not reporting for drug testing
- Not paying ordered fines, court costs, or restitution
- Not completing community service
- Unemployment and not seeking a job
- Not enrolling in substance abuse or mental health programs
- Not reporting a new address or leaving the area without permission
- Failing to appear in court if required
- Making your whereabouts unknown to avoid supervision (absconding)
- Getting arrested and/or charged with a crime
For certain violations, a probation officer may simply issue a warning. However, for repeated or more serious violations, the officer can submit a violation report to the sentencing judge. The judge can then issue a warrant for your arrest or summons you to a probation revocation hearing. If police arrest you based on the bench warrant, you will likely remain in custody until your scheduled hearing.
Probation Revocation Hearings: Different than Criminal Hearings
Probation revocation hearings can differ substantially from traditional criminal cases. The prosecutor and the probation officer will be there trying to prove your alleged violations and making recommendations to the judge for sanctions.
Possible sanctions can include:
- Enacting stricter probation conditions
- “Shock time” in jail (a short period of time in jail)
- Extending the length of your probation
- Revoking your probation and enforcing a sentence of incarceration
Know that prosecutors only have to prove that it is more likely than not that you violated your probation. This is much easier than proving a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. It is essential that you have a skilled probation violation defense attorney with you in court to prevent any unnecessary sanctions or punishments.
If you face allegations of violating your probation, please call the skilled DuPage County criminal defense attorneys at Martin & Kent, L.L.C. We are available 24/7, so call (630) 474-8000 right away for help.