Probation Violations in the State of Alabama
Interviewer: What happens if someone were to violate probation and what are common ways in which people violate probation?
When a Judge Imposes Probation, Frequently Any Accompanying Jail Sentence Is Suspended
Brett Hollett: Typically what would happen is you plead guilty to a certain offense and when granted probation, the judge would give you a suspended sentence. If the sentence is suspended you don’t actually have to spend any time in jail but that sentence will hang over your head until you complete your probationary term. Let’s say you were given a 12-month suspended sentence and 12 months probation. That actually means you don’t actually have to spend any of those 12 months in jail if you complete the 12 months of probation.
If You Re offend While on Probation, the Judge Will Impose the Suspended Sentence
During that 12 months probation if you re offend, meaning pick up a new charge, test positive for drugs or alcohol, fail to pay court ordered monies, or fail to appear for any court appearances, the State or the City can file a motion to revoke your probation.
If your probation is revoked, the Judge could sentence you up to the amount of time that was suspended on that original plea. In the above scenario, you could be sentenced up to 12 months jail.
Pleading Guilty to a Drug-Related Charge: Can You Hope to Receive Mercy from the Court?
Interviewer: In a situation where someone said I’m guilty, I’ve been caught with marijuana or cocaine, I admitted to that, I’m guilty. Should they throw themselves to the mercy of the court or should they fight the charges?
It Is Always Advisable to Retain an Attorney to Discuss Your Options after a Drug-Related Charge—Convictions Carry Long-Term Consequences
Brett Hollett: I would never suggest just go in there and plead guilty especially by yourself. There are numerous additional repercussions that you may not know about. If you plead guilty to a drug or alcohol sentence, especially a drug offense, your license will be suspended for six months pursuant to law. The ramifications of a guilty plea will follow you for the rest of your life.
You’ll have a felony conviction on your record if you plead guilty to a controlled-substance charge. There may be some ways that we could avoid that conviction and there may be some ways we could help that person potentially get into a diversion-type program.
Your Attorney May Uncover Evidentiary Reasons to Dismiss the Case
Or upon looking at all of the discovery in a case, we may be able to find evidentiary reasons why the case should be dismissed and why the state shouldn’t be allowed to proceed at all.
Is Self-Representation a Viable Option to Defend a Drug-Related Charge?
Interviewer: There are some people that often think that because they’ve been through this before, maybe they’re a second time offender or a third time, they may feel they can just go ahead and represent themselves in court. What would you say to that individual?
Regardless of How Many Times You Have Appeared in Court, a Layperson Lacks the Skills and Knowledge of an Attorney
Brett Hollett: I’d say unfortunately they are likely going to have a hard time navigating the courtroom procedures and nuances. A layperson may not have the same weight or bargaining power that their attorney may have. Their attorney is going to be able to contact the district attorney or the city prosecutor and make sure they review their file before offering a settlement plea. A skilled attorney will be able to point out the weaknesses or flaws in the prosecution’s case. The defendant has a constitutional right to demand that the prosecution prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt but it can often be a pretty daunting task for the average person,especially if they’re trying to represent themselves.
The Prosecutor Will Be Unwilling to Offer a Favorable Plea Bargain If You Are Not Represented by an Attorney
The state will disclose to a defendant whatever discoverable information they have. However, most district attorneys or city prosecutors are less willing to work with a prose individual, especially a repeat offender. They’re of the mindset that if individual doesn’t want to accept their initial plea offer, then they are comfortable of just moving forward with a trial.
I just don’t think any individual would be able to or would be comfortable having to go through all the rules of evidence and prepare to try a case for themselves.
Do Judges and Juries Afford First Offenders Leniency for Drug-Related Charges?
Interviewer: You think juries and judges can at times be lenient to first time offenders or be a little understanding sometimes?
Brett Hollett: Yes. I think they realize everybody is human and makes mistakes once in a while. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of times with these drug offenses I think the mindset has now shifted towards trying to get people rehabilitative help instead of putting them in prison. I think that’s a big issue and something we focus on.
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