Probation Violation(s) Must Be Willful and Substantial!

July 6, 2017 Probation Violation

Probation Violation(s) Must Be Willful and Substantial!

A VOP (Violation of Probation) MUST be Willful

Almost daily at the Pumphrey Law Firm, we receive inquiries about probation violations for both County Probation and for State Probation (State Probation is run by the Florida Department of Corrections).  Although the probation officer whether, State or County, alleges a violation of probation that does not mean that an actual violation occurs.  Many times, there is miscommunication between the probationer and the probation officer that can be resolved without a hearing and gaining original reinstatement.  At a violation of probation hearing, a court has broad discretion to determine whether a substantial and willful violation of the conditions of probation occurred.  The sentencing court must specify the performance conditions when the probationer is first placed on probation.  That way completion of tasks and refraining from other activity is clearly spelled out.  Frequently, the probation officer’s interpretation differs greatly from the intent of the court. 

Regardless, it is well founded that the State must prove: First, that the alleged violations were willful and substantial; Second, if it is found that the violations were willful and substantial, whether the probationer made reasonable efforts to comply with the terms and conditions of probation; and Third, that the evidence is supported by the “greater weight of the evidence”.   “Greater weight of the evidence” is a very low threshold but is still the standard held here in Florida.  There are a number of strategies to overcome whether a condition is clear and whether the probationer makes reasonable efforts to comply with probation conditions outlined and announced by the judge.  Quite simply, failing to do something and not having made reasonable efforts to accomplish or comply with what a court has ordered puts a person in jeopardy of violating probation.