If you have been convicted of a crime in Morris County, New Jersey, and been sentenced to probation, you've effectively been granted a privilege: the opportunity to repay your debt to society while maintaining some semblance of freedom. Probation furnishes the state with a mechanism to penalize offenders while mitigating overcrowding and reducing the financial burden on the prison system of New Jersey. It also provides lower-level defendants the chance to serve out their sentence in a rehabilitative manner. That being said, probation violations in Morris County are dealt with swiftly and sometimes severely.
The State of New Jersey leans heavily on its probation system in an aggressive move to lower the state's prison rates. As of 2020, there were 112,500 people on probation in NJ, as opposed to more than 23,000 incarcerated in county jails and state prisons. If you're currently on probation, you must understand that probation is not an alternative to serving a sentence; it is your sentence. While probation does not confine you within the physical boundaries of a jail, it imposes several restrictions. For instance, you may be mandated to participate in a treatment program. You may be prohibited from visiting certain places or interacting with specific individuals. You may have to undergo regular drug testing. You may be assigned community service hours. And you will definitely report regularly to a probation officer who is monitoring your progress and making sure you're obeying the conditions of probation. Any violation of these terms, or committing any other crime in the meantime, will likely cause you to lose your freedom and serve out your time behind bars.
If you have been accused of breaching your probation terms, you require legal representation. The Lento Law Firm has vast experience in probation-related cases in Morris County and across New Jersey. Our Criminal Defense Team understands how the Morris County system works, and we leverage this knowledge to help you get the most favorable outcome possible. Regardless of what offense has resulted in probation, we ensure your rights remain safeguarded while working toward leniency. To learn more about how the Lento Law Firm can assist you, contact 888-535-3686 today or fill out our online form.
Morris County Overview
Located in northern New Jersey, Morris County is the tenth most populous county in New Jersey, with a combined population of just over half a million. The county has historical significance as the site of the winter camp of the Continental Army under General Washington during the Revolutionary War. Today, however, Morris County is a popular suburban zone within the New York City Metropolitan Area, containing 39 distinct municipalities (mainly townships and smaller towns).
If you are serving probation, you were likely sentenced in one of your local municipal courts, or for more serious offenses, at the Morris County Superior Court, located at:
Morris County Courthouse
Washington and Court Streets
Morristown, New Jersey 07960-0910
Morris County Superior Court serves 39 distinct municipalities within Morris County, including, but not limited to:
- Parsippany-Troy Hills
- Washington Township
- Mt. Olive
- Harding Township
- Roxbury Township
- Mountain Lakes
Morris County maintains two probation offices, and you'll report to the office assigned to your jurisdiction:
Administration & Records Building
10 Court St.
862-397-5700 ext 75567
91-93 Bassett Highway
862-397-5700 ext 75590
Equally important is knowing how to access legal assistance, especially if you're accused of violating your probation. Regardless of where in Morris County you live, the Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help you address any probation-related concerns.
Probation is a legal sentence handed down by the court, typically imposed as an alternative to incarceration, although some defendants may receive a "split sentence" consisting of both jail time and probation. Being on probation signifies you've been found guilty of a criminal charge, which will remain on your record unless expunged through New Jersey's specific process in the future. Probation doesn't negate a conviction but does allow the defendant to live in their own home, work a job, and enjoy many freedoms. Probation, however, does come with its own set of rules and conditions.
The duration of probation in New Jersey can extend up to five years. Any criminal offense committed during this period constitutes a violation of probation terms and will likely lead to imprisonment. Your probation may also include additional stipulations, and non-compliance with any such conditions can trigger revocation of your probation. Even minor infractions like skipping a court-ordered therapy session could result in jail time.
An assigned probation officer oversees your case throughout the probation period. Regular meetings with them may be required. Likewise, any changes in your residence or employment status during the term of your probation must be promptly communicated to authorities.
It's worth noting that probation isn't the only form of criminal supervision. Parole is another form of supervision where a convict serving a prison sentence gets released early but under certain behavioral conditions. Another form, "Conditional Discharge", is typically given to first-time offenders. It's a type of probationary sentence where charges can be dismissed if all "discharge" conditions are satisfactorily met, often seen in drug and alcohol-related cases.
The Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team is proficient in handling all kinds of supervised release cases and can assist in building a strong defense against any alleged violation.
Common Conditions of Probation
Judges have significant discretion in determining the conditions of probation. However, common conditions generally include:
- Regular meetings with a probation officer
- Securing and maintaining stable employment (or enrolling in job or vocational training)
- Surrendering access to any weapons
- Restrictions on association with certain individuals, particularly those with criminal history
- Completion of a specified number of community service hours
- Limitations on internet usage
- Fulfillment of family responsibilities, such as child support
- Undergoing health assessments like routine drug tests
- Participation in individual or group therapy programs
- Avoiding any further criminal activity
Furthermore, all probation participants must pay a $25.00 program fee, although waivers are available for those who cannot afford it. Apart from probation, your sentence may also include fines or restitution that must be paid as a condition of completing probation.
The most common reason to have one's probation revoked is committing another crime. Technically, breaching any of your probation terms can potentially lead to severe consequences, possibly even jail time. While minor errors (such as missing a therapy session) usually won't result in incarceration, courts have little tolerance for repeat offenders or those who commit new crimes.
In New Jersey, youthful offenders are subject to the Juvenile Probation system. The Morris County juvenile probation system is administered through the same probation offices as the adults, but several key differences set it apart in dealing with minors.
Even first-degree offenses committed by minors may sometimes qualify for probation, a rarity for adults. Probation officers assigned to juveniles undergo unique training specific to working with younger individuals. They engage not just with the juvenile offender but also their families, offering a more comprehensive approach. These officers tend to be proactive, helping minors access relevant social services and mandating regular school attendance as a standard condition of juvenile probation.
Violation of Probation (VOP) Proceedings
When a probation officer suspects a violation of probation terms, they file a Violation of Probation (VOP) form. Upon receiving a VOP, the court typically issues a warrant for your arrest, and you'll be required to appear in court to justify your actions.
Being on probation implies surrendering some—though not all—of your Constitutional rights. For instance, you're obligated to fulfill your probation conditions, even if they infringe on the civil liberties of a non-convicted individual. Your probation officer may have the authority to inspect your residence, oversee your internet activity, and implement sanctions or incentives as deemed appropriate. Importantly, they don't need definitive proof of re-offense to request an arrest warrant. Probable cause of any probation violation can lead to your arrest and possibly detention without bail until a hearing is arranged.
When you're on probation, your rights are also limited in court. Unlike your original criminal trial, where guilt had to be established "beyond a reasonable doubt," probation cases apply a lower standard—"preponderance of evidence." This essentially means that the judge needs to be just over fifty percent convinced that you indeed violated your probation to impose penalties.
The important right you do have while on probation is the right to legal counsel. The Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team can represent you throughout your case, helping you formulate your defense, speaking on your behalf in interviews and hearings, and negotiating with prosecutors to prevent any incarceration.. If you suspect a potential arrest for violating your probation, hiring an experienced attorney as soon as possible may mitigate the distress of an arrest as well as minimize the penalties of the violation itself.
Above all, the Lento Law Firm can ensure your due process rights are not infringed upon. Although your rights are more restricted during probation, it doesn't give investigators and prosecutors the ability to cross boundaries at will. Our Criminal Defense Team can help you navigate the intricacies of an arrest and hearing while ensuring prosecutors stay within the bounds of the law.
The Probation Arrest Process
Experiencing an arrest, particularly when on probation, can be a deeply unsettling and stressful event. Given the relatively low threshold that probation officers need to meet to request an arrest warrant, you need to be prepared for the unexpected.
It's important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. If you've faltered while on probation, it doesn't mean you forfeit your right to fair treatment, nor does it automatically mean you will lose your freedom. It's also possible for you to face accusations of violations you didn't commit or be arrested for a minor, unintentional error. Regardless of the circumstances, maintaining composure during an arrest is crucial. Having a prepared response strategy can be tremendously beneficial.
Here are some guidelines:
- Avoid resistance: Even if you're anxious or feel unjustly treated, never deny officers entry into your home or respond violently to an arrest. (As a probationer, one of the rights you give up is that officers can search your home without a warrant.) Your rights may be limited, but it's essential to manage your emotions and engage cooperatively with law enforcement. If you believe you're being treated unfairly, rest assured that the Lento Law Firm will address any improprieties. If you anticipate an arrest, inform us in advance to ensure a smoother process.
- Don't speak to authorities without legal counsel present: Despite being on probation, your right to remain silent remains intact. It's advisable to exercise this right until your attorney is present. Even if you're confident about your innocence, your words could be misconstrued as an admission of guilt by law enforcement or prosecutors. Wait for your attorney to guide you on what to share and what to withhold.
- Contact the Lento Law Firm promptly: The moment you're arrested for a probation violation, you need legal representation. If a member of the Lento Law Firm Team isn't present during your arrest, reach out to the firm at the earliest opportunity. We are committed to safeguarding your rights whenever they are threatened.
Seeking Help for Probation Issues in Morris County, New Jersey
Probation serves as a beneficial alternative to incarceration. However, it's not a free pass. You've agreed to relinquish certain rights and restrict specific behaviors for the term of your probation, and your probation officer can easily obtain an arrest warrant if they even suspect you've violated your probation. Being on probation inherently puts you at a disadvantage, and without skilled legal counsel on your side, you could suffer more severe penalties over a suspected violation--and possibly lose your freedom. That's when the Lento Law Firm becomes indispensable. Our Criminal Defense Team is highly experienced in New Jersey's probation laws and has a strong track record of defending clients in Morris County. We understand your rights under the law, and we will work to get you the best and fairest outcome possible--even if you genuinely violated your probation.