While probation is always preferable to spending time in prison, probation presents less demoralizing but still challenging circumstances. Violating probation can sometimes be frighteningly easy and set people up for added prison or probation time.
There are two kinds of violations, “non-technical” and “technical.”
Non-technical probation violations
Non-technical probation violations are serious and can result in substantial prison time.
In Maryland, a non-technical violation involves “(1) an arrest or a summons issued by a commissioner on a statement of charges filed by a law enforcement officer; (2) a violation of a criminal prohibition other than a minor traffic offense; (3) a violation of a no-contact or stay-away order; or (4) absconding.”
A non-technical violation, say a minor altercation that ends in arrest can turn your probation time into prison time. Obviously, a non-technical probation violation charge should be vigorously defended.
Technical probation violations
Technical violations are anything that does not fall under the definition above and are generally minor. The penalties can range from a couple of days to 15 days in jail for a first violation, up to 30 days in jail for a second violation, and anywhere from 45 days to the full probation period in jail for three or more violations. So, while a technical probation violation should be avoided, the penalties aren’t life-altering.
Examples of technical probation violations include missing or arriving late for a probation officer appointment, unexplained absences from work or school, testing positive for drugs or alcohol, failing to pay restitution, court costs and/or fines, not completing substance abuse or anger management treatment programs and not completing community service.
Probation officers hold considerable power
The x-factor in many probation violations can sometimes depend entirely on the mood of one’s probation officer at that moment. Probation officers make the call about whether or not to report a minor violation.
In many cases, a probation officer will overlook a minor, one-off violation if the circumstances allow for it. However, they can just as easily turn a five-minute late arrival into 15 days in jail if you catch the officer on a bad day.
Maryland’s legal system is seemingly in a permanent backlog, where people waiting for a “timely” hearing can end up sitting in jail for longer than simply serving the maximum time for a technical violation. Anyone facing probation violation charges, minor or not, should speak to an attorney to avoid becoming stuck in a badly clogged system.