Your favorite Clearwater criminal defense lawyer was recently asked whether a Judge would personally listen to an alleged violation of probation before the probation officer files the violation report.

Here’s the question:

Picasso's self portrait shows a man in despair having lost his job and facing a violation of probation.I’m on probation in Pinellas County, Florida for grand theft. Until now I’ve had no violations of probation. But I recently lost my job. I can barely keep a rough over my family’s head. 

Now I’m looking at a violation of probation for not having a job, for failing to pay restitution in the grand theft case, for being behind in my monthly payments to the probation officer and for not paying court costs. 

What should I do? Is there any way that I can explain my situation personally to the Judge before the probation officer violates me or issues a warrant for my arrest?

We could take a few dozen bottles of Tampa’s Cigar City IPA beer to the Judge’s house to personally discuss your future violation of probation while waiting for the SWAT team to take us away. But what you’re thinking is right on track – you want to immediately schedule your violation of probation hearing before you get arrested and maybe even before the probation officer can get a word or two in against you. 

Under Florida Law when a probation violation occurs in Tampa Bay, Florida, the probation officer writes a violation report that is sent to the Court, the prosecutor and the defense attorney. The violation report elaborates for all the parties each alleged violation. It’s a very important document similar in someways to an indictment in that it tells you exactly how the officer believes you failed to meet the obligations of your probation. Until the violation report has been written a hearing can not be set with the Judge because the parties to the case do not yet know what may or may not be included in the report. 
No Judge would make a ruling on a possible violation of probation without knowing in detail what the alleged violations are. Nor would the Judge make a ruling without notifying all of the parties of a hearing for which all of the parties have ample time to prepare. Once the violation report has been written and filed, then an attorney can set the case for an immediate violation of probation hearing where the Judge will listen to testimony, view any evidence and determine if there is a violation of probation. If he decides there is a violation then the Judge will sentence the Defendant.

The good news for you is that Judges in Florida no longer view not having enough money as a significant probation violation as long as the violation is not willful. It would be willful if you just quit your job because you didn’t like it, not willful if you were fired. Yet under the conditions of your felony probation it was mandatory that you have a job so that you could make payments toward restitution and court costs (as to court costs, the thinking seems to be someone needs to pay those judges and prosecutors, it might as well be you). These violations often are known as ‘technical violations’ in which the Court would likely violate your probation by avoiding jail by extending your probation allowing you more time to find a job. 
Once you’ve completed the obligations of your probation or if it becomes clear that the obligations of your probation must change so that you can successfully meet the requirements of probation, then your Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer will persuade your Judge to terminate your probation so that you can live a full and productive life without having to report to any probation officer in the future.


This Blog recently received a question from a father asking if his son’s drug probation could be terminated early. Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney told him that in St. Petersburg, Largo and Tampa Bay, Florida a Judge will rarely, if ever, grant a motion to terminate probation until the Defendant has successfully completed at least have of the probationary period.

Father in Clearwater Florida asks criminal defense attorney Robert Hambrick  how son's probation can be terminated
Cezanne, Portrait Artist’s Son, 1890

Once half of the probation period has been completed the Judge will ask the probation officer at a hearing if all of the terms and conditions of the probation have been met successfully, including any restitution for the victim, court costs, fines, court ordered classes, counseling and mowing the Judge’s lawn. Being poor will no longer result in a violation, but the Court will not terminate a probation where money is owed under the conditions of the probation. 
Beyond the statutory Florida standard terms and conditions of probation the Judge at sentencing may have imposed other special conditions either required by Florida Statutes or imposed due to the facts and circumstances of the case; these requirements must also have been met.

If all of the conditions of the original probation have been met, the Judge will look to the following factors to determine whether to grant the motion:

  1. The nature of the underlying offense. Was the underlying offense a violent crime, a sexual crime or a crime that put others at risk
  2. Is the community in need of having the Defendant watched by a probation officer?
  3. Is the Defendant likely to commit another crime?
  4. Has the Defendant been punished sufficiently?

Once the probation has been terminated If you have a family member who needs help with probation issues  call a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer.