In Pennsylvania, judges have wide latitude in setting the terms of probation, a period of correctional supervision that serves as an alternative to incarceration. It is similar to parole, which is supervision after release from jail or prison. In both cases, violation of the terms and conditions can land the individual in jail.

This happens in Pennsylvania more frequently than in most other states. According to a study by the Columbia University Justice Lab, more than a third of inmates in prisons and jails are there for violating probation or parole. This statistic goes hand in hand with the fact that Pennsylvania has the third highest percentage nationwide of residents under correctional supervision. One out of every 34 adults in the state is on probation or parole — a rate 36 percent higher than the national average (one out of 53). This means there is a larger pool of violators feeding incarceration rates.

Violations of probation may be technical in nature, such as:

  • Missing scheduled contacts with probation officers
  • Failing weekly drug tests
  • Unemployment
  • Not completing required counseling
  • Failing to perform community service

Technical violations are usually correctable and, if not persistent, may not lead to incarceration. However, there are certain types of behavior that can lead a judge, after a hearing, to revoke your probation and send you to jail. This can occur one of three circumstances:

  • You are convicted of another crime.
  • The judge believes your conduct indicates you are likely to commit another crime if not imprisoned.
  • The judge believes prison time is essential to vindicate the authority of the court.

The third circumstance gives judges wide latitude during probation hearings, a factor that seems partly responsible for the unusually high percentage of revocations in Pennsylvania.

If you’ve been charged with violating your probation, you have the right to be represented by an attorney at your hearing. To learn more about how an experienced criminal defense attorney can assist you in dealing with charges of violation of probation, call Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law at 814-443-1631 or contact me online to arrange a free consultation at my Somerset office.