In Arizona, the probation violation hearing is where the judge will listen to the evidence and decide whether someone has violated a term of their probation. Probation can be revoked if there was a violation and the probationer can be remanded to jail or prison. Technical violations, though, often lead to the reinstatement of probation, though usually with additional terms of release.
1. What is the probation violation hearing process?
A probation violation hearing is a court appearance that happens after a probationer is accused of violating a term of his or her release. The hearing is a fundamental part of the following process:
- the probation officer suspects that a term of probation has been violated,
- the officer files a petition in court over the alleged violation and gets a court order for an arrest warrant,
- the probationer is arrested and held in jail,
- the probationer is arraigned,
- the probation violation hearing is held, and
- if the judge finds that a violation occurred, the probation violation disposition is held and the judge sentences the defendant for the probation violation.
The accusation of a violation usually comes from a probation officer, though the court can initiate the proceedings, on its own. If the probation officer suspects a violation, he or she will file a Petition to Revoke Probation and issue a warrant for the probationer’s arrest.1 The probationer will be arrested and brought to court, where he or she will be notified of their right to a criminal defense lawyer.2
In between the arrest and the hearing, the probationer is generally held in jail. In Arizona, probationers arrested for allegedly violating a term of their probation cannot be released on bond. The only way they can get out of jail before their violation hearing is to be released on their own recognizance.
Before the hearing, the defendant has another court date: The probation violation arraignment. This court date has to happen within a week of the probationer’s arrest.3 At this arraignment, the probationer will either admit to the violation or plead not guilty to it. Admitting to a violation speeds up the process by skipping the hearing and moving straight to the disposition. If the probationer does not admit to a violation, the probation violation hearing will be set for between 7 and 20 days after the arraignment.4
At the probation violation hearing, the prosecutor will present evidence that the probationer violated a term of his or her release. Hearsay evidence is allowed at these hearings, and the burden of proof that the prosecutor has to meet is only a preponderance of the evidence.5 The criminal defense attorney will argue either that there was no violation, or that it does not warrant a complete revocation of probation.
If the judge finds that no violation occurred, the Petition will be denied and the probationer will continue to serve his or her sentence on community supervision. If the judge finds that there was a violation, a probation violation disposition hearing will be set for between 7 and 20 days after the hearing. At the disposition hearing, the judge either:
- revokes probation and sends the probationer to prison to serve the rest of the sentence, or
- reinstates probation and releases the probationer on supervised release, though with additional, stricter terms or on intensive probation.6
2. What are the terms of probation?
The terms of probation are the rules and restrictions that probationers have to abide by, in order to continue serving their sentence on community supervision, rather than in prison.
The judge at the sentencing hearing has wide discretion in setting the terms of a defendant’s probation.7 Some common terms of the probation include:
- community service,
- travel restrictions,
- house arrest,
- random drug tests,
- relinquishing all firearms,
- a promise not to commit a new crime, and
- regular meetings with a probation or surveillance officer.
The terms of felony probation are generally more severe than for misdemeanor probation. The criminal defendant’s prior record and the nature of the offense will also influence the terms and type of probation.
For example, the terms of probation handed down by an Arizona drug court for a non-violent, first-time offense involving illegal drugs are likely to focus on drug treatment and rehabilitation. These drug courts are county-specific, though they are available in the most populated areas of Arizona, like Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler.8
3. What is a technical violation in Arizona?
A technical violation happens when a probationer violates a minor term of their probation. Examples include:
- being late for a meeting with an officer at the probation department,
- missing a deadline to pay restitution or a court fee,
- staying out for a few minutes past curfew, or
- missing a counseling session.
The penalties for a technical violation tend to be less severe than they are for a major violation, like committing another crime. Judges often reinstate probation for technical violations, though they often add some terms to the release.
4. What is a Term 1 violation?
In Arizona, a Term 1 violation happens when a probationer commits another crime while on probation. This violates one of the most important terms of release – that they do not commit a criminal offense while out on probation.
Probation is frequently revoked for a Term 1 violation, meaning the probationer will do jail time for the sentence that had led to their probation. Additionally, the probationer will face new criminal charges for the offense they are being accused of committing.
- Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 27.6.
- Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 27.7.
- Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 27.8(a)(1).
- Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 27.8(b)(1).
- Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 27.8(b)(3).
- Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 27.8(c).
- See ARS 13-901.
- ARS 13-3422(A) and (L).