I have handled hundreds of criminal matters and one thing remains consistent. There are those who get it and never want anything to do with the criminal justice system; and then there are those who just don’t seem to get it. They are repeat customers.
Lindsay Lohan, who has just been sentenced to 90days in jail for violating her probation terms for a DUI offense she committed in 2007, falls into the latter category. At the end of the day, in defending a criminal client, our job, as defense lawyers, is not necessarily to judge you (we sort of do that before we agree to defend you) but to defend and essentially fix the problem, to the best of our abilities.
In the entertainment industry, criminal conduct almost seems inevitable, it’s like bread and butter; they go together. Often, many entertainers, especially those at the top, act like they are immune from the laws of our land. The truth? If you reside in the “U.S. of A,” you, like everyone else, will get prosecuted and serve time if you violate the law. As a general rule, you should adhere to the saying, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” It really is that simple. Arguably, in the eye of the public, many celebrities get off scot free. At the end of the day, whether they get off easily or not, experiencing the legal system, especially the criminal system, is one of the most super stressful things that can happen to an individual and family, especially if it is a first. It is no joke.
Here is the run down on violation of probation and what it means should you find yourself in such situation.
What is Probation?
Probation is essentially a suspension of the sentence that the judge was going to execute or impose on you. In a super simple lingo, the court essentially says, “Hey XYZ, we’ve gone through trial or you pled. You have been found guilty and convicted. For your sentence, I can put you in jail now. However, I have the choice to let you go home, IF you agree to follow certain rules. You follow it, we are so good and in 3yrs, your case is over with. You mess up on any of the rules, I will most likely have you sitting in jail. How you wanna do this?” In most jurisdictions (states), in misdemeanor cases (crimes with confinement time of 1yr maximum), courts have the power to do this.
The court believes, through arguments shown by your attorney, that letting you back into the community poses minimal risk to the public and also promotes your rehabilitation.
What is the Difference Between Formal vs. Informal Probation?
Many states by law provide for formal and informal probation. Formal means you are supervised by a Probation Office (PO); you have to check in with your PO, typically once a month. Informal means you stay out of trouble, you complete the terms of your sentencing (community service, counseling, drug testing, jail time) and you need not check in with a PO.
How Long Does Probation Last?
Misdemeanor cases: 1-3years. It can last up to 5years, depending on the facts of the case.
What Does it Take to Violate Probation?
Totally ignore the terms of condition for your release i.e. do it Lindsay Lohan Style.
What Happens When You Violate Probation?
Two things. 1) Your PO can issue a notice i.e. warning to you; OR 2) your PO can file a petition for your violation of probation, forcing you to appear in court for a probation hearing.
What Happens in Court at the Probation Hearing?
Heard of “Beyond a reasonable doubt?” Well, toss that out of the window because the standard in Probation hearings is way less than that. The court weighs the arguments and evidence provided by all parties and makes a ruling. Usually they believe what the P.O has in the probation report. Which gets us to sentencing.
What is Sentencing all About?
It means the court found you indeed violated probation and sentences you accordingly.
What are the Sentencing Options?
Jail, extension of probation, probation revocation (which means you serve out the rest of your time), among many options. The court has the discretion to look at the gravity of the probation violation, prior crimes, new crimes you have committed in deciding what your sentence will be.
Stay out of trouble!