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What Happens if I am Charged with a Crime while on Probation?

graphics-882726_640-300x207When a defendant agrees to go on probation his or her actions will be under a microscope until the supervision terms ends.   Unfortunetly, the success or failure of a probation sentence is not always up to the defendant.  Probation officers have a great deal of power and control over their defendants, and some have a tendency to abuse this power.  There are certainly fair and reasonable officers throughout Maryland, but some make it so difficult for a defendant that a violation is bound to occur.  Regardless of what type of officer is assigned to the case though, there will likely be violation paperwork filed if a defendant is charged with a crime or a serious traffic offense while on probation.  All defendants who are on probation are required to immediately inform their officer upon being charged with a crime or traffic offense that carries a possible jail sentence.  Civil citations such as possession of marijuana under ten grams or open container of alcohol do not count as crimes, and will not be the basis for a violation of probation.  One of the exceptions is an open container charge in Ocean City, as city law provides a potential 90-day jail upon conviction.  A defendant who does not report a new charge could face an additional violation for failing to inform the officer, but this will likely be overshadowed by the offense itself.

Once a probation officer receives notice that a defendant has picked up a new offense, he or she will send the judge an informative that describes the new offense.  Some probation officers will include a recommendation whether to issue a summons for the defendant to appear in court or a warrant to be issued, but the decision is completely within the discretion of the judge.  The less severe the new charge is, the higher the odds are that the judge will issue a summons or show cause order for the defendant to appear in court.  Any defendant that is arrested on a violation of probation warrant will still have the opportunity to file a motion for bail review.  If a warrant has been issued for a violation but the defendant has not yet been served or arrested, it is advisable to contact a lawyer.  A violation of probation lawyer can file a motion to convert the warrant into a summons, and these motions are especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Maryland judges have been more likely to consider converting warrants into summonses in order to limit the amount of COVID-19 exposure to defendants and to the jail population.  There is never a guarantee that a particular judge will grant a motion, but filing promptly is key.  We do not recommend waiting to file this type of motion, as this would likely result in missed probation appointments and the potential for a new violation to be filed for absconding.  Absconding (missing more than 1 appointment) is a non-technical violation and is not subject to the JRA limitations on potential jail sentences.

A violation of probation hearing will likely be scheduled prior to the new case being resolved.  When this happens the state and defense typically ask for a postponement in order for the new case to be worked out.  This becomes a problem when the defendant is being held in jail on the VOP, which is why requesting a bail review right away is important.  Anyone who is charged with a new offense while on probation should think twice about pleading guilty to the new charge, as this would almost certainly result in being held in violation.  Any guilty, Alford or no contest plea, even if the defendant receives a probation before judgment or PBJ, would be sufficient to prove a violation.  Too many defendants make the mistake of accepting a time served or PBJ offer, and then face harsh punishment when they go back to their violation judge.

The Justice Reinvestment Act has dramatically changed the way judges view VOP cases, but new law violations are the exception.  If you have been charged with a crime or serious traffic offense such as driving without a license, driving on a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident or DUI call Maryland violation of probation lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin fights for defendants in all district and circuit courts in the state, and has prevented dozens of clients from going to jail on violations.  He is available 7 days a week at 410-207-2598, and is also an experienced Florida probation violation lawyer.

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