Defending Colorado Probation Violation Cases Tactics – Strategies – Plans of Action
Defending Colorado Probation Violation Cases Tactics – Strategies – Plans of Action – is a topic that requires inquiry into the methods used by Colorado probation officers in deciding which probation violations to prosecute and which to forgive.
This article focuses on the policy issues behind that decision. Understanding those policy issues gives insight into how to pro-actively defend these case.
Violations Of Probation Can Take Many Forms – Here Are Some Examples
A Colorado Probation Violation may take the form of:
Committing a new offense
Possessing a weapon
Denying access of probation staff to your residence
A search pursuant to probation supervision that leads contraband
Absconding from supervision
Testing positive for drugs
Testing positive for alcohol
Failing to register as a sex offender
Associating with known felons, gangs, etc.
Possession of contraband
Violating travel restrictions
Failing to participate in treatment
Failing to submit urine/blood analysis
Failing to maintain employment
Failing to pay restitution, other fees
Failing to participate in education program
Failing to complete community service
Changing residence without notice or permission
Failing to report
Violating curfew/approved schedule
Making false statements
Failing to follow orders
Violating jail rules
Failing to notify sheriff’s office of change of address (sex offender)
The Decision Of Whether To Proceed With A Probation Violation Complaint Involves A Calculation Of Risk
A probation officer – faced with a technical violation of probation – has the right to move forward with a probation violation complaint or rather to take other action substantially LESS THAN proceeding with a FULL BLOWN arrest warrant and court based probation violation hearing.
This decision turns on the offender’s level of risk. Factors such as the offender’s performance on probation to date, any past violations (during the current or previous periods of probation supervision), a history of failure to appear in court, and other issues turning on the probationer’s level of stability.
Most good probation offices have internal policies that attempt to introduce consistency and rationality into the probation violation decision making process.
Defending Colorado Probation Violation Cases Tactics – Strategies – Plans of Action – A Measured Response To The Specific Probation Violation
Probation officers have “options” depending on the kind of “violation behavior” at issue.
They do not – however – always act uniformly across county and city jurisdictions. But most “tier” their response to the situation on a sort of “violation severity scale.” Some – for example – may offer a low-level sanction such as a verbal reprimand to a low level violation of probation. Some react to the same violation with a “high-level sanction” such as a complaint to revoke probation and a recommendation to the judge for a certain amount of jail.
The decision to take every probation violation through the court system saves saves probation officers, court personnel, prosecutors, and judges valuable time. Finding the PO “sweet spot” tp achieve a non court sanction is the goal an an experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyer.
Some Typical Probation Violation Response Options
Jail – Work Release
Additional community service
Start or restart electronic monitoring
House arrest – curfew home confinement
Intensive probation supervision
Day reporting centers
Extend – Restart probation
Increased supervision standards
Hold the violation in abeyance
The Stubborn Probationer – A Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Reasoning
While there should be a response to a probation violation, that response should be proportional to the risk to the community posed and the actual severity of the violation. That response should be the “least restrictive response’ that is necessary. And there must be some consistency in handling similar violations of probation behavior – all things being equal.
The response to a probation violation should take a long view.
Unless the violation is for high risk behavior – if the probationer demonstrates a willingness to abide by all supervision requirements a Complaint or Petition to Revoke Probation should not be filed and another sanction sought.
The Decision To Revoke Probation Turns On:
The severity of the misconduct.
The risk posed by the offender.
The threat to community safety posed by the misconduct.
A Violation of Probation Is Defined As:
The commission of any crime or offense.
Failure to comply with any one or more conditions of probation.
Absconding by remaining away from the jurisdiction of the Court or hiding out.
Not Every violation of probation needs to be brought before the Court for an adjudication.
Violations May Be Handled On Two Levels:
By appearance before the Court.
The goal of the lawyer for a VOP is to get it handled :administratively” To convince the PO that the “breach of conduct” is not so severe as to require Court action and that an acceptable understanding can be reached with the probationer as to his or her future conduct.
The Analysis Of The Probation Violation Should Involve These Things – Reasoning Through
1. Probation officers should seek a full blown revocation of probation in only the most serious threat based cases.
2. If there is no significant risk to community safety alternative, less restrictive intermediate sanctions are more “proportional” to the misconduct that has occurred.
3. A “graduated response” to deal with the probation violation makes the most sense to ensure future compliance with the conditions of probation and to deter the probationer from future misconduct.
4. Only the most serious “technical violations” that have high risks associated with them should result in a VOP.
5. So called “corrective interventions” must be measured and reasoned to meet a defendant’s “rehabilitative needs.”
6. Punishments should never be driven by anger or vengeance or “emotionally laden” they should be “matched to the particular offender” and realistically address the particular misconduct. Probation officers should never proceed with a VOP ONLY because they are “frustrated” that their supervision efforts have been difficult unless the probationer “poses a risk to community safety” Administrative and “internal measures” should be the first line of problem solving to deal with “probationer intransigence” and the failure to meet basic probation supervision standards.
7. If sanctions are to be imposed – they should be only those necessary and appropriate to bring about positive or sufficient change to alter/modify/control the behavior or to encourage/assist/ or enable the probationer to successfully complete the probation sentence.
6. The goal should always be to allow the probationer – offender to remain in the community under probation supervision. This enables the offender to maintain family and social ties, continue to work or seek gainful employment, pay restitution to victims, to aid his or her community through public service work, and to have access to social service agencies that can help him or her.
How Weld County Probation Does It – The Violation Review Board
In Weld County probation violation cases – the Violation Review Board (VRB) provides “a rational and purposeful decision making process that contributes to consistent and equitable responses to offender misconduct.”
In Weld – the probation officer refers to a probation violation “matrix” list to determine the severity of the violation when compared to the “risk” posed by the probationer. The PO then “staffs” the case to determine what sanction is appropriate seeking an alternative to the filing of a revocation complaint with the court.
Defending Colorado Probation Violation Cases Tactics – Conclusion
A Colorado criminal defense lawyer must understand the policy issues – and to speak the their “language.” Every Colorado probation department is different- every PO is different. What drives this probation officer – what is your client’s “relationship” with the PO? How can the lawyer “fix” the issue that is interfering with successful discharge of probation?
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