If you have been accused of violating your probation in Las Vegas, you are facing the possibility of losing your freedom. A violation of probation (VOP) defense lawyer in Las Vegas, Nevada, can protect your rights and try your case in court. They can work to reduce the repercussions you face if you have violated probation or fight on your behalf if you have not. Understanding your probation terms and what breaking those terms means can help you avoid issues with your probation officer and keep you out of prison.
Definition of a Violation of Probation (VOP)
A simple definition of a probation violation or a violation of probation (VOP) is when a person violates the terms of their probation agreement. Probation is an alternative to serving time. It allows someone to live among the public while under a probation officer’s supervision. It is also considered a way to rehabilitate a person instead of punishing them (NRS § 176A.400).
When a judge issues a probation sentence, they order certain conditions that a person must meet to stay out of prison or jail. These conditions can include paying fines, completing restitution, performing community service, receiving counseling, and other sanctions.
Probation is usually a possibility in many cases except for crimes involving murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, and being a habitual offender. Early release for these crimes is typically not permitted. Violating the terms of your probation in Nevada is considered very serious. Sometimes, it carries more serious repercussions than the initial sentencing.
Parole vs. Probation
The terms “parole” and “probation” are often mistaken for the same thing. While they are indeed similar, there are key differences. Parole is issued to those convicted of a crime and have already served a portion of time in prison.
Probation is an alternative to serving a prison sentence and does not require a person to spend time behind bars. For more information on probation in Las Vegas, visit the District of Nevada probation office site or contact your local probation office at (702) 527-7300.
How Individuals Can Violate Their Probation
Probation can be violated depending on the terms a person receives at their probation sentencing. When a person is given probation, they receive a set of release terms they must follow. Common terms often imposed are:
- Abiding a curfew time
- Abstaining from alcohol or drugs (as well as avoiding places like bars and clubs)
- Avoiding certain locations and people (such as victims as well as their homes and workplaces)
- A ban on owning guns and other weapons
- Banned from voting during the probation period
- Staying within a certain jurisdiction without permission
- Agreeing to regular searches of your person, property, home, or vehicle
- Attending an educational program
- Wearing a SCRAM bracelet or other form of electronic monitoring device
- Living in a halfway house
- Submit routine drug and alcohol tests
- Checking in with their probation officer
- Not committing another crime (other than minor traffic offenses, such as parking violations)
Nevada grants probation as a privilege that must be continuously earned, and this involves tailored conditions for each person. Depending on the offense or crime committed, these terms will vary. Any alleged violation puts a person in serious trouble with the law.
Types of Probation Violations
Failing to abide by any of the above conditions or any other additional conditions of your probation is a violation. Repercussions can differ depending on how you violated your probation terms.
The most common violation is a technical violation (NRS § 176A.630). It means you did not abide by one or more of the conditions the judge gave you. For example, testing positive for drug or alcohol use and failing to attend a weekly meeting with your probation officer are technical probation violations. Technical violations can result in changes to your probation sentence or getting your probation reinstated. They could also lead to a revocation of probation, which means you will be incarcerated.
If you have committed only a single technical probation violation, it is unlikely you will serve jail or prison time. However, each judge handles violations differently, so serving time is possible. Therefore, it is important to have a Nevada criminal defense lawyer help you develop a strong defense that can help during your hearing.
Another way a person can violate probation is by committing a substantive violation. This means they committed a new crime during their probation that is separate from the conviction that led to their probation. Each crime will be considered an additional violation of the probation terms.
Substantive violations require a new criminal proceeding (trial) where a prosecutor would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed this new crime. Repercussions for substantive violations are usually harsher than technical violations. You could lose your right to probation and be required to serve a prison sentence instead.
Nevada Statutes on Probation Hearings
Other important statutes to know concerning probation or a VOP include:
- NRS § 176A.400 says the district court can adjust your probation terms at any point.
- Failing to register as a sex offender for sex-related crimes is an automatic violation of probation. (NRS § 176A.410)
- Through NRS § 176A.430, probationary offenders must pay back restitution to the state for their crimes. This can include monetary fees as well as public service work, such as community service.
- NRS § 176A.440 defines how you will be supervised during your probation, such as how many times you must report to a probation officer.
- NRS § 176A.450 explains the procedure for modifying parts of your probation secured by a surety bond.
What Happens if Someone Violates Their Probation?
If law enforcement or prosecutors believe you have broken the terms of your probation with probable cause (NRS § 213.1517), there are three possible outcomes:
- The police may arrest you where you will be put on trial before a judge (you may or may not be able to post bail depending on the circumstances).
- You will receive a summons requiring you to appear in court on a specified future date.
- The judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you are arrested under a technical violation of probation, you must be brought before a judge within 15 days of the violation. Otherwise, you must be returned to serving your probation sentence until you receive a hearing. At that time, if a judge finds you guilty of committing one or more technical probation violations, they may:
- Continue your probation as issued
- Order house arrest (NRS § 176A.660)
- Temporarily revoke your probation sentence and have you imprisoned for 30-180 days, depending on the circumstance
- Fully revoke your probation and have you imprisoned for the remainder of your sentence
Violations That Will Not Have Your Probation Revoked
While each case is unique, a minor violation usually does not lead to a probation period being revoked. The following situations on their own may not constitute a revocation of probation:
- Drinking an alcoholic beverage
- Testing positive for a drug or alcohol test
- Failing to follow the rules of substance abuse or mental health program
- Failing to search for or keep a job
- Failure to pay a fine on time
- Failing to report a change in residence
It is not necessarily true that a probation violation will automatically put you behind bars. However, this depends on the circumstances, the type of violation, and how serious the judge believes you are about completing your probation. Securing counsel from a Las Vegas violation of probation defense attorney can be your best option in convincing a judge to find your probation violation a minor offense.
The VOP Hearing Process
Hearings are conducted when a person violates their probation. VOP revocation hearings are brought before a judge in a courtroom without a jury present. Sometimes, they are called “probation violation hearings” or “revo hearings.” During your hearing, you have the same rights that you would in any ordinary trial, such as the right to testify and the right to a lawyer. You also have the right to cross-examine a witness and present evidence. VOP procedures usually happen as follows:
- There is a probation violation and an arrest.
- An inquiry occurs where the violator is placed in jail or on house arrest until law enforcement can confirm the probable cause. (NRS § 213.1511)
- A hearing takes place where a judge determines if probation was violated.
- Results of the hearing take place, and the person placed under probation is either released from custody or faces the consequences of violating their probation.
A judge will evaluate your VOP evidence and if you violated your probation terms, and how to proceed if you have. Unlike criminal trials, the prosecution does not have to prove you violated your probation beyond a reasonable doubt. This means it may be easier to find that you broke your probation agreement. This also shows why having a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney can help your hearing process go as smoothly as possible.
If you are found to have not violated your probation, you can carry on serving your probation as usual. But, if you are found to have violated probation, the judge will carry out disciplinary action. They likely will consider how serious your violation was, your prior criminal record, and how you have been performing under your probation terms up until the time of your violation.
Different Forms of Probation for Different Offenses
No single probation program is used for every crime or offense. Each type of crime will have its own conditions.
Probation for committing a misdemeanor can last up to three years and will have terms and conditions that relate to the offense. For instance, if a person assaults another while intoxicated, they might have to take substance abuse counseling and refrain from drinking.
Probation for felonies can last up to five years in Nevada. Felony drug charges are one of the few felony crimes eligible for probation. However, more serious crimes, such as homicide, rape, or kidnapping, are not.
Defenses for a Violation of Probation
Probable defense strategies your Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer may use during your hearing may include:
- Claiming you were falsely accused of violating your probation
- Claiming you have been misidentified for someone else who law enforcement mistook you for
- Arguing that your actions do not constitute a probation violation
Issues With Probation in Nevada
While probation is supposed to be a sort of rehabilitation for offenders in Nevada, some studies have found that probation violations often tend to be for minor infractions, which suggests supervision programs need improvements. In a report from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, technical violations make up nearly 25% of all state prison admissions. It also reports that in 20 states, more than half of the prison population is serving time for supervision violations.
A Los Angeles Times report shows that many VOPs result from technical violations that lead to more incarcerations than actual rehabilitation. The most recent data available shows that more than 16,000 people were on probation in Nevada in 2019, per a National Institute of Corrections report. In 2018, The Nevada Independent shows that Nevada’s prison population increased by 7% between 2008 and 2018. As a result, more people are going to prison for longer sentences.
Because offenders are under such tight terms for their probation sentences, it makes it easier to violate probation or be accused of one. If you are suspected of a VOP, it can be a challenging legal struggle to prove you have been following your probation’s terms. Having a strong defense is key to remaining with your current probation sentence and avoiding paying for this breach.
How Our VOP Lawyer in Las Vegas Can Help if You Violated Probation
If you are accused of violating your probation or have a violation of probation hearing in the future, the first thing you should consider is contacting our VOP Lawyer in Las Vegas. We can help with getting summons extensions, negotiating deadlines and amended probation terms, and managing your VOP hearing. We can also develop your defense and protect your legal rights at your hearing.
Contact the DeCastro Verde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers for help with your probation violation and hearing. With more than 25 years of experience, we provide award-winning legal help to those in the greater Las Vegas area.