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Understanding probation violation and what happens to violators

Following a criminal conviction, individuals in Tennessee could be placed on probation. Whether probation resulted as part of the accused's penalties or was a condition of his or her release from jail or prison, the terms of their probation must be followed throughout its duration. If these terms are not followed, this is considered a probation violation and will likely be treated like a criminal offense.

Depending on the terms of the probation, a violation typically occurs when an individual ignores, avoids, refuses or breaks the terms or conditions of their probation during the timeframe of their probation period. While in most cases probations last between one and three years, those accused of more severe crimes could endure lengthier probation periods. And if he or she violates the terms and conditions even once during that period, they could face serious penalties.

Common circumstances that could lead to a probation violation include failing to appear in court, not reporting to a probation officer, failing to pay any required fines or restitutions ordered by court, possessing, using or selling illegal drugs, committing other crimes or being arrested for another offense regardless if it is criminal or not.

Depending on the seriousness of the probation violation, an individual could receive a warning or a request to appear in court for a probation hearing. If the accused must appear in court, the prosecuting attorney must prove his or her probation violation occurred with the preponderance of the evidence standard. If the defendant is found guilty, he or she could be sentenced to an extended probation period, face additional probation terms, serve time in jail or have their probation revoked altogether.

When an individual is accused of a probation violation, it is important to understand the rights and options afforded to the accused. He or she could make a defense against the accusations, helping them avoid additional penalties or terms added to their probation.

Source:, "Probation Violation," accessed Nov. 30, 2015

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