New Jersey is home to 19 jails in 21 counties, as well as nine state prisons and additional private prisons. Probation is a criminal or municipal sentence that a judge may issue allowing you to remain in your community and out of one of these correctional facilities under the supervision of your probation officer. You may be under probation because you have been diverted from incarceration through pretrial intervention or conditional discharge. Perhaps you are under probation in combination with some jail time. In either case, probation is seen as the preferred alternative to incarceration-only for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity for you to take advantage of services that aim to help you reach your goals and work on improving yourself while remaining in your community. You are not alone. In New Jersey, for the court year 2021-2022, there were 28,978 individuals under adult supervision, with over 2,000 of these in Middlesex County.
Probation Programs in Middlesex County
In Middlesex County, the Office of Probation Services monitors and enforces court orders placed on individuals under adult supervision (one type of probation). Depending on the level and nature of the original offense, a New Jersey resident on probation might be placed into a variety of programs.
One program that is stricter than traditional parole is the Intensive Supervision Program, which permits some non-violent offenders to serve out their prison sentences in a highly structured environment, getting help with budgeting, job searching and adhering to curfews.
Another program, the Recovery Court Unit, aims to support non-violent offenders dealing with addiction issues through intensive, supervised drug and alcohol treatment.
Ultimately, the aim of probation isn't simply to avoid incarcerating individuals. It is to reduce recidivism and rehabilitate clients through, for example, the explicit teaching of long-term behavior change.
When Probation Conditions Are Violated
No one wants to be in the position of violating their probation. But the reality is that it sometimes happens, intentionally or unintentionally. It's not an ideal position to be in, but what you do after you are notified that you are being accused of violating your probation is key and can impact your options moving forward. If you are facing a probation violation in Middlesex County, NJ, the importance of arming yourself with important information – and retaining a strong defense – cannot be overstated. A seasoned probation violation attorney on your side can dramatically impact the outcome and your overall future.
Have You Violated Any of These Probation Conditions?
Conditions imposed on offenders vary from person to person, but many of these may be familiar too. Those on probation are often required to:
- Hold a job and meet family obligations
- Report regularly to their probation officer
- Complete community service (In New Jersey, there were more than 300,000 hours of community service performed during the court year 2021-2022.)
- Undergo psychological testing, treatment, or counseling
- Stay sober and drug-free, submitting to regular drug screening
- Take part in in job-readiness training or education
- Undergo anger management counseling
- Not commit any additional crimes
- Live in a structured facility, such as a group home
- Avoid contact with certain people and establishments
- Possess no weapons, including firearms
- Comply with probation officer home visits
- Stay in a specific geographic area
- Pay court-imposed fines, victim restitution, and monthly probation fees
These conditions aren't meant to keep you from moving forward in life and succeeding, even though they may create some extra legwork or hardship. However, they should not be “unreasonable,” imposing such a burden that it makes it difficult for you to succeed in following them. An experienced attorney can help determine if you have been held to unrealistic, burdensome conditions that set you up for failure.
It may also be helpful for an attorney to present evidence that you followed many other conditions of your probation, especially those designed to move your life forward in a positive direction. For example, you might have taken advantage of connections to work opportunities and job training through the Judiciary Opportunities for Building Success “JOBS” Program.
Accused of Noncompliance in Middlesex County?
If you have been under probation and are accused of noncompliance for violating one or more conditions of your probation, your probation could be modified or even terminated. For some, this happens because they have broken the law again. When this happens, a warrant may be issued for your arrest, or you may be served a summons; you could even be arrested without a warrant. New Jersey Statutes state that “A probation officer or peace officer, upon request of the chief probation officer or otherwise having probable cause to believe that the defendant has failed to comply with a requirement imposed as a condition of the order or that he has committed another offense, may arrest him without a warrant.”
If you are arrested, and in custody, you could be stuck there without bail until your court hearing. While you are cut off from resources and opportunities, having legal counsel on the outside and building your defense as the hearing date approaches can make all the difference in court.
At the hearing, you could be sentenced to a punishment consistent with your original charge(s), which would be unfortunate, akin to taking steps backward. When this happens, it is truly unfortunate. The time and effort you have put into adhering to your probation conditions for the time that you did can be immediately erased, leaving you back at square one.
Making Sense of Your Violation of Probation (VOP) Hearing
While your original case may have been heard at a Superior Court before a peer jury, violation of probation hearings take place before a single Middlesex County Superior Court Judge, quite possibly the one who heard your original case.
If you are facing a VOP hearing, this means your probation caseworker has filed a complaint with the court. While attending this hearing may give you anxiety, it is incredibly important that you do so. A judge may issue a warrant for your arrest if you are a no-show. Once the hearing begins, the judge's first task will be to decide whether you did or did not violate your probation. You have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. In the former case, the judge will then issue a sentence. In the latter, you will have a VOP trial.
In such a trial, both sides are invited to offer witnesses and cross-examine each witness. But remember, there is no jury in a VOP trial – your future is in the hands of the judge solely. An experienced attorney who understands the many factors judges look for and consider at this stage can make all the difference in how your hearing plays out. This is not a good time to hope for the best and represent yourself.
Sentencing Options in a VOP Trial
Depending on the accusations against you and the quality of legal representation you select, there are a variety of outcomes possible at the conclusion of your Violation of Probation Trial. A skilled attorney may succeed in having your probation continued without additional requirements placed on you. Alternatively, the judge could decide to extend your probation or impose new or additional conditions. What you don't want is to have your probation terminated in favor of incarceration or to be sentenced for your original offense all over again, possibly without any “time served.” It isn't unheard of for an individual to serve several years on probation only to return to court to have that time wiped away and be sentenced to the maximum penalty of incarceration for your original offense. Retaining the services of an attorney with strength in this area could save you and your family years of lost time. Such an attorney can advise you on whether an appeal of the sentence may be a wise next step. In this case, they will have 45 days to file a Notice of Appeal on your behalf.
Don't Leave Your Future to Amateur Attorneys in Middlesex County, New Jersey
Consider yourself fortunate if, despite being accused of violating probation, you may still have the option of serving a period of your probation as an alternative to incarceration. Given the chance, this is an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and develop and hone positive, prudent practices and behavior. It's an opportunity you don't want to throw away by leaving your future in the hands of an attorney who lacks experience in this area. Selecting the right legal representation, such as the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team, can make or break your case. Choose a defender who focuses on this area of practice.
Lawyer in New Jersey for Probation Violations
If you have been charged with violating the terms of your probation, stiff penalties could follow, especially if there are any new criminal charges that have come to light. A great deal is on the line at this point, making it especially crucial to consult an attorney working with clients in Middlesex County at this time, familiar with the operations of the Middlesex County Court and Family Court. The Lento Law Firm provides no-holds-barred representation for clients in these dealings and brings a priceless perspective from his time as a parole officer early in his career. To have your case evaluated, contact the office at (888) 535-3686 or contact us online.