Probation is a crucial component of the New Jersey criminal justice system, one that benefits both the state and those individuals who have been convicted of crimes. For the state, probation helps ease overpopulation at jails and prisons while still ensuring that criminals are punished. Those on probation have the chance to pay their debt to society while still retaining their freedom.
However, if you're currently serving probation in New Jersey, you need to remember probation is a criminal sentence. You now have a criminal conviction on your record. In addition, while you've retained most of your freedoms, you do still have to adhere to the conditions of your probation, and those can sometimes feel restrictive. You have to report regularly to your probation officer. There may be limits on where you can go and who you can be around. Committing an additional crime or just missing a meeting with your officer could get you put in jail, the very thing you were trying to avoid in the first place.
Of course, you're human, and we all make mistakes. Maybe you're the victim of a misunderstanding. Maybe someone has falsely accused you of violating probation. These things do happen. Whatever the situation, if you're facing a violation charge, you can't afford to take it lightly. If you want to avoid jail or prison time, you need the very best representation you can find. You need an attorney from the Lento Law Firm.
The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm are skilled litigators. They know the law, and they know the New Jersey court system. They understand that you've given up some of your rights as a condition of your probation, but they also know that you retain some important rights as well. They can explain these to you and work with you to build a strong defense. Most important of all, the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm are on your side. They'll make sure you're treated fairly and that you get the best possible resolution to your case.
Warren County, New Jersey
First things first: If you've been placed on probation, you've also been assigned a probation officer. It's important you stay in touch with this officer. For example, you need to let them know about any changes to your day-to-day life. They can also be a useful resource for better understanding what's required of you while you're serving your sentence.
The Probation Division of the Passaic County Superior Court is located in the Passaic County Court House Annex.
63-65 Hamilton Street
Paterson, NJ 07505
You can also reach the office by calling 973-247-8700.
Your relationship with the probation office doesn't have to be antagonistic. When things are going well, they can help you fulfill the conditions of your probation and even be an advocate for you in some situations. However, if your officer has accused you of violating your probation, they immediately become your adversary. They will issue a warrant for your arrest, and they will do everything they can to prove that you are guilty. In these situations, you need someone on your side, someone to represent your interests, someone to tell your side of the story.
The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm work with all the residents of Passaic County, including those in
- Little Falls
- North Haledon
- Pompton Lakes
- Prospect Park
- West Milford
- Woodland Park
If you live in any of these municipalities or anywhere else in Passaic County, we're in your corner and ready to fight on your behalf. You can reach the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686.
What Is Probation?
Successfully completing probation starts with understanding just what probation is.
The first thing you need to know is that probation is a criminal sentence. It allows you to avoid spending time in jail or prison, but it is a punishment, and it always comes with a set of obligations you must fulfill. At a minimum, you agree not to commit any additional crimes and to report regularly to a probation officer. Most sentences include additional restrictions as well, though these can vary depending on a number of factors.
Here are some additional facts you need to know about probation.
- Your sentence can be anywhere up to five years. You must follow all the conditions of your probation during that period.
- Should you re-offend or commit a new crime, the judge can revoke your probation and impose a jail or prison term.
- Your probation can also be revoked if you violate any of the specific conditions of your probation. Even a small mistake, like failing to attend a required AA meeting or spending time with another convicted felon, can be grounds for revocation.
- You've been assigned a probation officer. This officer monitors you throughout your probation. You'll be asked to meet with them regularly to report on your activities. They may make home visits. And you'll need to let them know any time you move or change jobs.
There's no question that probation is far better than the alternative. A jail or prison sentence means pressing the pause button on your entire life. Probation can be difficult in its own way, though. You may find it frustrating to have to report to an officer. It's not always easy to give up freedoms like the right to own a firearm. And the fact of the matter is that no matter how committed you are to follow your conditions, you can still make mistakes. A violation allegation can be scary.
The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm understand your situation. We know you're doing your best, but that probation can be stressful. No matter what your situation, we'll fight for your rights, but we'll also make the process as easy and smooth for you as we possibly can.
Typical Conditions of Probation
New Jersey judges have a great deal of latitude when it comes to assigning probation conditions. However, there are a set of standard requirements you're more likely to face. These include things like
- Finding and maintaining a job
- Attending vocational or job training
- Completing community service hours
- Avoiding contact with certain people
- Surrendering any weapons you own
- Submitting to health assessments such as drug testing
- Allowing monitoring on your electronic devices
- Wearing an ankle monitor
- Attending recovery or rehabilitation programs
- Participating in individual or group therapy
- Fulfilling family obligations such as paying child support
New Jersey charges everyone on probation a $25.00 clerical fee. In addition, the judge can require you to pay a fine or pay financial restitution to victims as part of your sentence. Your probation is not over until you have satisfied these obligations.
You don't have to commit another crime to find your probation revoked. A judge can send you to jail for violating any of the conditions of your probation. There are often alternative solutions to jail time, though, especially if your violation is minor or an honest mistake. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm know all of your options and can help you decide which one is right for your particular situation.
Children can be sentenced to probation just like adults. In fact, judges in juvenile court are far more likely to assign a minor probation than to send them to jail. There are other important differences between adult probation and juvenile probation as well, differences you need to know, especially if you're the parent of a child who has been convicted of a crime.
- Your child's probation officer should be specifically trained to work with juveniles.
- You should expect your child's officer to be proactive about suggesting state and court resources.
- Your child will need to meet with their officer, of course, but you may also need to meet with that officer.
- You may be required to meet with a social services case manager in addition to the probation officer.
- It is unlikely your child will be required to hold a job, but juvenile probation almost always includes a stipulation that they attend school regularly.
Finally, you should know that the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team protects juveniles just as it does adults. If your child has been accused of violating their probation, it's important you contact the Lento Law Firm as soon as possible to find out how we may be able to intervene and protect them from a worse sentence.
We've talked a good bit about how probation itself works. What happens, though, when you're accused of committing a violation of your probation?
While anyone can report you for violating your probation, allegations almost always originate with probation officers. In addition, they're the only ones who can file a Violation of Probation (VOP) with the Superior Court.
You should know that your probation officer doesn't have to be certain “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you committed a violation. “Probable cause” is the standard. Likewise, the judge won't require the officer to do much to prove their case. Typically, they don't even ask any questions before issuing an arrest warrant. Things get worse. Once you're arrested, there's a good chance you'll be put in jail until the judge sets a court date to review your case. And, again, the standard for determining whether or not you are guilty is not “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, the judge will use a lesser standard known as “preponderance of the evidence.” Basically, if they're more than fifty percent sure you committed a violation, they're required to find you guilty.
This entire process can seem like a violation of your civil liberties. And under normal circumstances, many aspects of it would be. However, it's important you remember that you gave up some of your rights as a condition of your probation. For example, your probation officer has a great deal of authority over you. You must report changes to your job or your residence. In some cases, they may be able to enter and search your home. They may have the right to monitor your online activity. They might even be able to monitor your movements through an ankle monitor. Likewise, because you've already been convicted of committing a crime, the judge in your case doesn't have to be absolutely certain you violated your probation before deciding you're guilty. You've demonstrated you have a tendency to make mistakes, and that counts against you.
However, you don't give up all your rights when you're on probation. You still have the right to due process and a fair hearing. As part of your rights, you're also entitled to legal representation. A Lento Law Firm attorney can conduct your entire defense on your behalf, from formulating a strategy to organizing evidence to identifying witnesses.
It's important you contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team the moment you've been arrested, though. We can help you answer questions and make sure you don't do or say anything that could prejudice your case before it gets started. In fact, if you suspect you might be subject to arrest, a Lento Law Firm attorney might be able to negotiate your surrender so you can avoid the social stigma that comes with arrest.
How to Respond
Probable cause is a very low standard of evidence. It probably won't come as a surprise to you, then, that probation officers issue lots of VOP arrest warrants every year. What do you do if it happens to you?
Your primary job is to remain calm. An arrest warrant is always upsetting, but an arrest for a probation violation can be particularly stressful. You're already anxious about fulfilling the obligations of your sentence, and arrest can make you feel like you've failed completely. You don't have the same rights you did when you were arrested for your original crime. And you have to worry about whether you might be forced to spend time in jail while awaiting your hearing. That's more than enough to ruin anyone's day.
If you allow your emotions to get the better of you, though, you can make your situation considerably worse. So, in addition to remaining calm, you'll want to keep these other tips in mind.
- Do not resist arrest. Your emotions will almost certainly be running hot in a situation like this. You'll very likely be angry. Never act out of that anger, though. Don't refuse to let the officer in. Don't make threats. If you feel officers are mistreating you or violating your rights in some way, let your Lento Law Firm attorney know. In the moment, you should comply with all of their requests.
- Don't speak. You have Miranda rights for a reason. As Miranda puts it, “anything you say can and will be used against you.” Better not to say anything, then. You may be tempted. You may want to explain what happened or to protest your innocence. But police and prosecutors have a remarkable ability to turn even the most innocent statements into damning evidence of guilt. Wait until your lawyer arrives—or make sure your lawyer is on hand when the arrest happens—and let them speak for you.
- Contact the Lento Law Firm immediately. It's probably obvious at this point, but the most important thing to do when you're arrested is to contact an attorney. A Lento Law Firm attorney can speak for you, work on an equitable solution to the situation, make sure you don't do something you'll later regret, and begin building the case for your release.
Getting Help for Probation Issues in Passaic County, New Jersey
Probation can be a valuable alternative to jail or prison time. It's not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, though. You've agreed to give up some of your rights; you've agreed to limit some of your behaviors; and your Probation Office can decide to accuse you of violating your probation at any time.
When that happens, you need the best help you can get. You're already at a disadvantage. You need an attorney from the Lento Law Firm. The Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team is well-versed in New Jersey's probation law. In addition, they have experience defending clients in Passaic County. They know your rights under the law, and they're ready to use those rights to protect you.