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Curing Probation Problems in Port St. Lucie

Eighmie_3.21.17

In most misdemeanors, and even in many felonies, St. Lucie County judges often sentence defendants to probation, unless the defendant has an extensive criminal record. This arrangement usually works out better for everyone. For the state, probation is much cheaper than incarceration. For the defendant, being on probation is almost always better than being behind bars.

Yet probation comes at a cost, especially for defendants. There are a number of very restrictive conditions. Failure to meet these conditions could result in a motion to revoke probation. Commonly, prosecutors file these motions if the defendant violates a substantive condition, like regular reporting or committing no other infractions. Motions based on lesser violations, such as the failure to pay money or the failure to work regularly, are not unheard of either.

If you have issues with your probation, a Port St. Lucie criminal defense attorney can enforce your rights in court. Additionally, in many cases, an attorney might be able to end problems before they begin.

Probation Revocation Matters in St. Lucie County

The biggest difference between probation revocation and original cases is probably the burden of proof. In original criminal proceedings, prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard of evidence in Florida law.

But in probation revocation proceedings, prosecutors need only establish that the allegations in the motion are true by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Florida law.

So, lack of evidence, which is a very effective defense in original proceedings, is usually not a good defense in revocation matters. Therefore, an attorney must look for other possible defenses.

One strategy is to get ahead of the problem and work with the probation officer. Prosecutors do not file revocation charges unless the probation officers recommend such action, at least in most cases. For example, if there is an issue with reporting, an attorney could work out a different schedule or possibly make other accommodations.

Lack of due diligence in serving the warrant may be a defense as well. Typically, prosecutors file a motion to revoke, the court issues an arrest warrant, and that warrant sits in the computer until defendants run red lights or otherwise trap themselves. But generally, the law requires law enforcement officers to make some effort to serve the warrant. That effort is often absent.

An attorney can also negotiate with prosecutors. These agreements resolve most criminal cases, and there is usually some give-and-take. For example, prosecutors might agree to continue the defendant on probation if the defendant serves a few days in jail as a condition of reinstatement.

Motion for Early Discharge

A successful early discharge motion is the ultimate way to get ahead of probation problems in Florida.

To qualify for early release, the defendant must have completed at least half the probation period. Additionally, the defendant must have completed all ancillary requirements, like community service hours, and paid all required money, like fines and restitution.

Even if the defendant qualifies, the judge has a great deal of discretion. Unless the defendant has an effective advocate, there’s almost no chance that the judge will approve the motion.

Getting out from under the court’s thumb is obviously a good thing. That means no more court supervision, no more monthly fees, and no more ancillary requirements, like an Ignition Interlock Device. Furthermore, if the judge approves early release, it is usually easier to expunge or seal the defendant’s criminal record in a subsequent proceeding.

Contact an Experienced Lawyer

Effective legal counsel can help you even after the judge’s gavel falls. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie criminal defense attorney, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters throughout the Treasure Coast area.

Resource:

leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0900-0999/0948/Sections/0948.03.html

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