Why it’s Nearly Impossible to Win a Probation Violation

If you’ve ever experienced a criminal conviction, chances are you may have been placed on probation.  If you are ever in the unfortunate position to be placed on supervised probation, be sure to take it very seriously and to form a good relationship with your Probation Officer.  The reason this is so important is that if you fail to follow all conditions of probation, you could face a probation violation which could result in an activation of your suspended sentence, which means you would go to jail or prison to complete your sentence.

Resistance seems futile when it comes to contesting a probation violation.  In such hearings, probation violations need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. All that’s required is sufficient evidence to “reasonably satisfy” the judge that a violation occurred.

One of the main reasons you can’t win these is because the rules of evidence do not apply at a probation violation hearing. G.S. 15A-1345(e). Hearsay is admissible and may play a prominent role in a trial judge’s finding of violation and ultimate decision to revoke. That’s true even when the alleged violation is a new criminal offense that has yet to result in a conviction.

Another reason these hearings are challenging is that even the fruits of an unlawful search may be admitted at a violation hearing. State v. Lombardo, 306 N.C. 594 (1982).  Also, testimony from unconfronted witnesses can support a finding of violation—but only if the trial court makes a finding of good cause for not allowing confrontation.   A defendant who fails to object to a lack of confrontation at the hearing generally won’t be able to raise the issue for the first time on appeal.

With that flexible evidentiary framework in place—and an abuse-of-discretion standard for appellate review, State v. Tennant, 141 N.C. App. 524 (2000)—it’s hard to find a case where the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of violation.

If you are facing a probation violation or other legal trouble, call King Law for a free consultation.

For more information on this topic, see https://nccriminallaw.sog.unc.edu/sufficient-evidence-probation-violation/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter