New Jersey's criminal justice system would grind to a halt without probation. The state simply couldn't afford to incarcerate every person who broke the law. Plus, the fact is that while everyone who breaks the law deserves to be punished, not every violation warrants jail time. Probation offers a useful compromise.
Those on probation benefit from it as well. Probation offers a way to pay your debt to society without actually having to spend time in jail. However, if you're one of the thousands of people serving probation in New Jersey, you need to know that probation is a criminal sentence. Your record will reflect that you were convicted of a crime. And you do have to fulfill some important obligations. At a minimum, you're required to meet regularly with your probation officer. There may be restrictions on where you can go and who you can associate with. Should you commit any additional crimes, your probation will be revoked, and you'll almost certainly wind up in jail.
Of course, we all make mistakes from time to time. It was a mistake that put you on probation in the first place, and despite your best efforts, maybe you've made another one and violated the conditions of your probation. Or, perhaps this time, you're entirely innocent, and you've been accused of violating probation when, in fact, you've done nothing wrong. Misunderstandings happen. False accusations sometimes happen as well. Whatever your specific situation, if you're facing a probation violation charge, you must take it seriously. If you're convicted this time, you'll almost certainly do time in jail or prison.
Taking it seriously means getting the best help you can. The best help is the Lento Law Firm. Our attorneys know the law. They know your rights and how to use those rights to your advantage. They're also familiar with the Warren County, New Jersey, court system and how it operates. They've helped hundreds of New Jersey citizens get the fair treatment they deserve, and they can help you as well.
Warren County, New Jersey
Let's start with the basics. If you're serving probation in Warren County, you need to know how to contact the probation office. One of your most important responsibilities is to keep in touch with your case officer.
The Probation Division of the Warren County Superior Court is located in the Warren County courthouse at
413 2nd Street
Belvidere, NJ 07860
You can reach the office by calling 908-475-6920.
If your probation officer has accused you of violating your probation, though, you're going to need legal help. So, you also need to know how to contact the Lento Law Firm. We work with all residents living in Warren County, including those in
- Allamuchy Township
- Blairstown Township
- Franklin Township
- Frelinghuysen Township
- Greenwich Township
- Hardwick Township
- Harmony Township
- Hope Township
- Independence Township
- Knowlton Township
- Liberty Township
- Lopatcong Township
- Mansfield Township
- Oxford Township
- Pohatcong Township
- Washington Borough
- Washington Township
- White Township
If you live in any of these cities and towns or anywhere else in Warren County, you can easily reach the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.
What is Probation?
The word “probation” comes from the Latin “probare,” which means to test or prove. When a judge agrees to a sentence of probation, they're asking you to demonstrate that you can be trusted not to re-offend or commit other crimes. Typically, probation is an option that allows you to avoid a jail or prison sentence, though judges do sometimes issue “split sentences,” where probation replaces only a portion of a prison term. Probation is not the same as an acquittal, though. If you're serving probation, you have been convicted of a crime, and serving probation will not remove that conviction from your record. Only “expungement” can do that.
Probation typically works like this:
- Probation can last for up to five years. If at any point during your probationary period you re-offend—commit the same crime again—the judge can revoke your probation and impose a jail or prison sentence.
- Your probation can also be revoked for committing another separate crime or for violating any of the conditions of your probation. Even something relatively minor, like spending time with another convicted felon or missing an assigned AA meeting, could be enough to send you to jail.
- You're assigned a probation officer. This officer monitors you while you're serving your sentence. At a minimum, you must provide this officer with updated information about where you live and what work you're doing. In most cases, you're also required to meet regularly with this officer.
Probation is not a jail sentence, but it's not easy either. Dealing with restrictions and reporting to an officer can be frustrating, and it can sometimes be difficult to meet all the conditions that have been placed on you. The Lento Law Firm believes, though, that you deserve a fair chance to serve out your probation. No matter what your specific situation, we'll fight for your rights.
Typical Conditions of Probation
We've mentioned that probation often comes with a set of conditions. Just what can a judge require of you? Among the possibilities, you may be asked to
- Find and maintain a job
- Surrender any weapons you own
- Attend vocational or job training
- Avoid contact with certain people
- Complete community service hours
- Submit to health assessments such as drug testing
- Wear an ankle monitor
- Allow monitoring on your electronic devices
- Attend recovery or rehabilitation programs
- Participate in individual or group therapy
- Fulfill family obligations such as paying child support
Your sentence could also include a fine or financial restitution to your victims, and you must pay a $25.00 fee in order to participate in the New Jersey probation system. Normally, your probation is not complete until you've paid these monies.
Again, you can get into serious trouble for any violation of any condition of your probation. Serious trouble can include jail or prison time. A violation doesn't have to end that way, though. You're almost certain to go to jail if you should commit a crime, but it is possible to work out alternative solutions for minor violations. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can advise you as to your options and will work to get you the best possible resolution to your case.
If you're the parent of a child who has been convicted of a crime, they may be subject to Juvenile Probation. The juvenile probation system is similar to the adult system, but there are some important differences.
- Your child's probation officer should be specifically trained to work with juveniles.
- Your child will need to meet with their officer, of course, but you may also need to meet with that officer.
- You should expect your child's officer to be proactive about suggesting state and count resources.
- 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.
You're making a good-faith effort to do everything asked of you, but sometimes life happens even when we're doing our best. What do you need to know about the process of probation violation?
Most violation allegations originate with probation officers. After all, they're the ones who are specifically tasked with monitoring you. If your officer believes you've committed a violation, they'll submit a Violation of Probation (VOP) to the Superior Court. Typically, judges don't ask questions when they receive these reports. They simply issue an arrest warrant.
The entire probation violation process can seem like a violation of your civil liberties. Why would a judge simply issue an arrest warrant on the say-so of one officer? Why isn't your officer required to provide concrete evidence as part of the VOP? The fact is, you give up many of your rights when you agree to a sentence of probation. Your officer has a great deal of authority over you. In some cases, they can enter and search your home. They may be entitled to monitor your electronic devices. And they have broad authority when it comes to accusing you of violating the conditions of probation. The legal standard for issuing a warrant isn't “beyond a reasonable doubt” the way it was in your original trial. It's “probable cause.”
Likewise, you have fewer rights when you go before the judge to defend yourself from a violation accusation than you had in your original trial. The standard here is stronger than probable cause, but it's still not “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The law requires the judge to find you guilty if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you violated your probation.
You do have some rights, though, even when you're on probation. One of the most important of these is the right to legal representation. That means someone from the Lento Law Firm can conduct your entire defense on your behalf, from formulating a strategy to finding and organizing evidence to identifying witnesses.
In fact, a Lento Law Firm attorney can help you long before you go to court. They can be on hand during any investigative interviews to answer questions on your behalf. That's important because, as Miranda says, “anything you say can and will be used against you.” You don't want to make a mistake in the initial stages of your case that could wind up costing you later.
We can't help you, though, if you don't contact us. It's important you call the moment you're arrested or, if possible, the moment you know an arrest might be coming.
How To Respond
Given the low standards required to issue a VOP, arrest warrants in probation cases are actually quite common. Literally, you can be arrested at any moment, and many probation officers out there have itchy trigger fingers.
An arrest is always upsetting, but an arrest in a probation case can be especially so. You've been through a lot already at this point. Just serving out your probation can be stressful. Worse, you don't have the same rights you did the first time around. And in many cases, you can be held without bail until the judge sets a date for a hearing.
Even so, it's important you remain calm any time you're dealing with law enforcement.
- Practice non-resistance. You're going to feel stressed when officers show up. You may even be angry. Never act out of that anger, though. You want to allow the officers in. Don't make threats. Even if you feel officers are treating you unfairly, don't resist. Instead, let your Lento Law Firm attorney know and let them deal with it.
- Say nothing without your attorney. Miranda gives you the right to an attorney. Before it mentions attorneys, though, it also gives you the right to “remain silent.” Exercise that right. It can be tempting to plead your case to the police or to your probation officer, especially if you believe you're innocent. If they're arresting you, though, the police already think you're guilty. You can count on them to misconstrue anything you say, and they will use it against you if they can. Wait until your Lento Law Firm attorney arrives to say anything.
- Contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team immediately. Everything we've said up to this point has led to this: you cannot deal with this situation on your own. You need an attorney, and you need an attorney with the background and experience to handle probation violation cases. In New Jersey, no one is better prepared to represent you than the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm.
Getting Help for Probation Issues in Warren 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 Warren County. They know your rights under the law, and they're ready to use those rights to protect you.
If you're in trouble, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.