Probation is a crucial aspect of New Jersey's criminal justice system. For the state, it provides a way to hold offenders accountable without overburdening New Jersey jails and prisons. For defendants, it offers the chance to pay their debt to society without entirely giving up their freedom.
If you are one of these defendants, it's important you recognize that probation is not a free pass. You are serving a sentence, even if you're not doing it behind bars. While you are not restricted to a cell, you are not entirely free either. You have an obligation to meet with your probation officer, for instance. Your movements may be restricted. There may be limits on who you can associate with. And most importantly, you absolutely must avoid committing another crime.
As committed as you may be to fulfilling the terms of your probation, we all make mistakes from time to time. While you may not be looking for trouble, sometimes trouble comes looking for you. It's also possible to be accused of violating your probation when you're entirely innocent. If you've been charged with a probation violation, no matter what the specifics of the situation, you must take it seriously. At a minimum, you could find yourself in jail, the very result your probation was meant to prevent in the first place. You need the very best legal representation you can get. You need an attorney from the Lento Law Firm.
The Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team is experienced. They know the Sussex County system and can help you successfully navigate it. Most importantly, they know your rights and how to protect them.
If you're a Sussex County resident on probation, the very first thing you need to know is how to contact the probation office when you have a problem.
The Sussex County Judicial Center houses the Probation Division of the Superior Court system. That center is located at
43-47 High Street
Newton, NJ 07860
You can reach the office by calling 862-397-5700.
Just as important as knowing how to get in touch with the Probation Division, though, is knowing how to get in touch with the Lento Law Firm. Any time you find yourself in trouble, the firm's attorneys give you the very best possible chance of a successful resolution. And we work with clients across Sussex, including in the boroughs and townships of
No matter where you live, help is always just a phone call away at 888-535-3686.
What Is Probation?
Probation is usually issued in place of a jail or prison sentence, though some defendants receive what's known as a “split sentence,” in which probation replaces part of a jail or a prison term. It's important you recognize that even though you've not been placed in prison, probation is a criminal sentence. If you're serving probation, you have been convicted of committing a crime, and that will appear on your record. This in itself can put restrictions on the kind of work you can do and the kind of places you can live. Most employers and rental agencies perform background checks on applicants, and your criminal history can be used against you. The only way to remove a conviction from your record is to go through New Jersey's expungement process.
Here are some other important facts you need to know about probation.
- Your probation is issued for a specific period of time, up to five years. Should you commit any criminal act during that period, your probation can be revoked, and you can wind up in jail.
- In addition, your probation can be revoked for violating any of the specific conditions of your probation. Failing to attend a required AA session or associating with someone else who has a criminal record could be enough to get you sent to prison if those are requirements the courts have placed on you.
- The court assigns you a probation officer, and this officer monitors all of your activities while you're serving your sentence. You're required to meet with them regularly and to provide them with updated information on where you work and where you live.
Finally, it is worth knowing that probation is only one type of criminal supervision.
- Parole: Prisoners are sometimes released early under a system known as “parole.” Just as with probation, this early release comes with the requirement that they submit to be monitored for a certain length of time.
- Conditional Discharge: Conditional discharge is like probation, but in these cases, the charge is removed from the individual's record once they complete the conditions of their discharge. This type of supervision is most common in drug possession cases.
No matter what your specific situation, the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm know how to handle it. They've worked with all types of supervision, and they can work with you to build a solid defense.
Typical Conditions of Probation
In addition to meeting with your probation officer, you'll likely have other conditions to meet as part of your probation. For instance, you may be required to
- Find and maintain a job
- Surrender any weapons you own
- Attend job or vocational training
- Avoid contact with certain people
- Complete a set number of community service hours
- Allow monitoring on your electronic devices
- Fulfill family obligations such as paying child support
- Submit to health assessments such as drug testing
- Attend recovery or rehabilitation programs
- Participate in individual or group therapy
You may also be required to pay restitution to victims or fines levied by the court. And New Jersey requires all persons on probation to pay a $25.00 fee for participation in the program. Your probation is not complete until you've met all of your financial obligations.
Any violation of your probation can get you into serious trouble and can result in jail or prison time. It is sometimes possible to work out minor offenses, especially if you can demonstrate that you made an honest mistake. Courts have no tolerance, however, for additional offenses. Should you re-offend or commit a new crime, jail or prison are the most likely outcomes.
New Jersey maintains a separate probation system for minors, known as Juvenile Probation.
If you're the parent of a juvenile offender, it's important you know that this system operates a little differently from the adult system. For example,
- Your child's probation officer should be trained to work with juveniles.
- That officer should meet with you in addition to your child.
- Generally speaking, you can expect juvenile probation officers to be more proactive in meeting with you and in providing access to state and county social services.
- While your child won't need to worry about having a job, regular school attendance is almost always a condition of juvenile probation.
What happens if you're accused of violating your probation?
First, your probation officer submits a Violation of Probation, or VOP, form to the court. In most instances, the court doesn't evaluate this form or ask questions about it. It simply issues a warrant for your arrest.
While this process may seem like a violation of your rights, it's important you remember that you gave up some of your civil liberties when you agreed to probation. Again, you were convicted of a crime, and that comes with certain obligations. For example, your probation officer may have the power to enter and search your residence. They may have permission to monitor your electronic devices. You may have been fitted with an ankle monitor that keeps track of where you are or whether you've been drinking. As part of their authority, your probation officer also has wide latitude when it comes to accusing you of probation violations. They don't have to be certain “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to issue an arrest warrant. Probable cause is enough.
After you're arrest, you'll have to appear in court to respond to the charge that you've violated probation. Here again, you don't have the same rights you had in your criminal trial. In particular, the court uses a lesser standard of evidence known as “preponderance of the evidence.” In simple terms, your judge must find you guilty if they are more than fifty percent convinced you committed a violation.
There is one key right you don't give up when you're on probation, though: the right to legal representation. An attorney from the Lento Law Firm can represent you at every point during your case. In addition to helping you build your defense, they can speak for you in interviews and during judicial proceedings.
You want to contact the firm any time you're arrested, and if you know there's a possibility you'll be arrested, you should contact them ahead of time. They can help minimize the trauma of the situation, make sure your rights are protected, and keep you from saying or doing anything that could worsen your situation. They may even be able to negotiate with prosecutors to prevent you from spending time in jail while you await your hearing.
While it is true that you've given up certain rights as part of your probation, you are still entitled to due process. It's not always easy to know what you can and can't do. An attorney from the Lento Law Firm can work with you to make sure you understand what's happening and to make sure that you don't make any missteps.
How To Respond
Given the low bar probation officers must meet in order to issue arrest warrants, it won't surprise you to learn that warrants are quite common in probation cases. You can be arrested at any time, and it's always upsetting.
We all make mistakes, of course, and making one doesn't mean you deserve to be treated unfairly. Let's be honest, though: you don't have to violate probation to find yourself accused of violating probation. Misunderstandings happen. Probation officers sometimes get things wrong. In these cases, it can be especially easy to get upset. You're doing your best to honor the conditions of your probation, and you still wind up accused. That's enough to make anyone angry.
No matter what your situation, though, it's crucial that you remain calm any time officers show up on your doorstep. One way to do that is to have a plan in place should it ever happen. That plan should include
- Non-resistance. The situation may seem unfair. You'll almost certainly be anxious and stressed. Never refuse to allow officers in, though, or make threats of any kind. Again, because you're on probation, you have fewer rights than the average citizen. Work to control your emotions and be cooperative. If the arresting officers are treating you unfairly in any way, you can count on the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm to protect you, but give us the chance to do that.
- Say nothing until your attorney is present. Another key right you have even while on probation is the right to remain silent. If you're innocent, you may be tempted to try to tell officers. If you're guilty, you may be tempted to try to explain. Don't. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Even proof of your innocence can be twisted to make you appear guilty. Remain silent and let your lawyer speak for you.
- It probably doesn't need to be said at this point, but it's worth saying anyway: contact the Lento Law Firm the very moment you are arrested or, if possible, before you're arrested. We can help, but we can't do that unless you let us know you're in trouble.
Getting Help for Probation Issues in Sussex County, New Jersey
Probation can be a valuable alternative to doing 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 Sussex County. They know your rights under the law, and they know how to use those rights to your advantage.