Rhode Island Bail & Probation Violations Lawyer
In the State of Rhode Island, many people are placed on probation as a result of a plea to a criminal charge. This occurs in District Court and Superior Court and the length and terms of probation vary on a case by case basis. While an individual is on probation, a violation of probation can happen. There are several ways that a person can violate probation which results in more court appearances.
The first is if you are a technical violator of your probation. What that means is you were given certain conditions at the time of your sentence or as instructed by your probation officer and you did not finish or meet those conditions. This can range from not staying in contact with your probation officer, failing drug or alcohol screens or not completing the proper counseling. If this occurs, you will be given notice and asked to appear in court.
Most people charged with crimes can remain out of jail until their trial by posting bail. Many others receive a sentence of probation after a court proceeding, which allows them to remain free in the community. These forms of release from custody serve the interests of both the defendants, who avoid confinement, and society, which avoids the cost of confinement and preserves a sense of fairness by not punishing people who have yet to be convicted of anything.
But those benefits must be balanced against the possibility that the defendants may commit crimes while out on bail or probation. And in the cases of bail, there is the added concern that the defendants may simply flee, rather than appearing for trial.
Bail is generally conditioned on three things:
- Appearing in court when ordered
- Staying within the state until the case is finished
- General good behavior
Other conditions may be specifically imposed based on the type of offense or character of the defendant. For example, a Rhode Island law specifically allows the court to impose a condition that the defendant submit to drug testing if charged with any of a lengthy list of drug crimes.
In cases of domestic violence, protective orders commonly prevent the defendant from contact with the alleged victim. Disobeying that order would be a violation of the bail condition of good behavior.
Probationers are required to comply with general conditions of probation that are imposed – basically to stay out of trouble and report to the probation department – and may be required to comply with other specific conditions that are imposed based on the defendant’s history and behavior. Typical special conditions include:
- Remaining employed
- Avoiding alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs
- Participating in specific programs, for example drug counseling and community service
- Paying court costs, fines, restitution
- Complying with any protective orders issued against the defendant
- Possessing weapons
- Associating with people known to be criminals, members of gangs, etc.
Bail violations affect both the defendant and anyone who put up the money or security. Potential penalties include:
- Revocation of bail, which leaves the defendant in custody pending trial.
- Forfeiture of the bond.
- If bail is revoked because the defendant has committed another crime, the potential for additional prison time.
Additional prison time is specifically imposed by a Rhode Island statute, which applies whenever the defendant is ultimately convicted of both the original crime for which bail was granted and the second crime committed while on bail. The severity of the penalty depends on whether the second crime is a felony or a misdemeanor:
- Felonies call for an additional 2 to 10 years, as much as a $5,000 fine, or both.
- Misdemeanors call for 90 days to a year, as much as a $1,000 fine, or both.
These penalties are in addition to whatever sentence is imposed for the crime itself, and must be served consecutively. For example, if the second crime is punished by a 7-year sentence for a felony, the defendant could be sentenced to as much as an additional 10 years for having committed it while on bail. Barring any early release or reductions, the defendant would have to serve 17 years.
Violation of any one of the conditions of probation can cause probation to be revoked. If the judge agrees after a hearing that the conditions were violated, the judge can still decide that the violation was so minor that the defendant should remain on probation. Much more frequently, though, a finding that probation was violated means that probation is revoked and the defendant goes to jail. The specific sentence depends on exactly what type of probation was initially imposed:
- If the defendant had been sentenced, with the sentence suspended, the judge may impose any sentence that is equal to or less than the suspended sentence.
- If no sentence was ever imposed, the judge can sentence the defendant to any penalty that is allowed for the crime.
And, of course, if the commission of a new crime is the basis for the violation, the defendant will be separately sentenced for that crime if eventually convicted.
Contact our Rhode Island Probation Violation Lawyer
The prosecution has a much lighter burden in violation hearings, which means that your attorney has a much tougher job. Evidence rules are less strict and the prosecution does not, many defendants are surprised to learn, have to prove the violation “beyond a reasonable doubt.” All the prosecution needs to do is satisfy the judge to a reasonable degree of certainty that a violation occurred. In fact, the claim that the defendant committed another crime while on bail or probation can serve as a violation, even if the defendant is ultimately not found guilty of the second crime.
Prosecutors often use this advantageous position when it comes to proof to pressure defendants to accept some form of plea bargain. In other words, if you are accused of having violated your bail or probation by committing another crime, the prosecution can try to coerce you to plead guilty to the new crime in exchange for going easy on the violation claim.
It is crucial that anyone accused of violating bail or probation get the help of an experienced Rhode Island criminal defense attorney immediately upon being accused of the violation. Hearings tend to be held quickly and offer far less protection to defendants than they get at a criminal trial. Delays in getting legal assistance can handicap your lawyer’s ability to present your side of the case, and to point out any flaws in the claims made by the prosecutor.
East Greenwich, Rhode Island, criminal defense attorney Stephanie A. Murphy has 11 years of experience successfully defending people accused of violating bail or probation in Rhode Island. If your freedom is on the line, call the Law Offices of Stephanie A. Murphy today for your free consultation.