If you have accepted a plea bargain, have been convicted of a crime, or have been granted a stay of adjudication, then you may receive probation. Probation is a court-imposed sentence in lieu of actual jail time; however, there are certain requirements that a person on probation must follow. Failure to do so will oftentimes result in probation revocation and your being sent to jail to serve your original sentence. Probation is viewed as a lenient option for courts to maintain some control over a person without sending him/her to jail.
Probation terms and conditions are unique to each individual and take into consideration the fact of the case, type of crime, offender’s criminal history, and other pertinent information. These sentences may have requirements such as:
- Abstaining from drugs and/or alcohol
- Attending anger management, substance abuse, or other classes
- Attending mandatory counseling
- Staying away from certain people and/or places
- Obtaining employment
- Performing community service
- Paying restitution and fines
- Maintaining regular meetings with your probation officer
If you break the terms of your probation, you can be charged with a probation violation, face potential probation revocation and, in some cases, additional criminal charges.
Minnesota probation violation law and the Austin factors
Minnesota Statute 609.14—as well as Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure 27.04—govern probation revocation proceedings. They state that if a person has violated any condition of his/her probation, then the court may revoke the stay of incarceration and take the person into custody.
However, in order to revoke probation, the court must:
- state explicitly the exact conditions of the probation that were violated;
- determine whether the violation was intentional and/or inexcusable; AND
- determine that the need for incarceration outweighs the policy considerations that favoring probation.
These are referred to as the Austin factors as determined in State v. Austin. Thus, when deciding to revoke probation, the court must find whether the violation in question adheres to Austin.
More recently, in State v. Modtland, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that the district court judge failed to take into consideration the Austin factors and remanded the case back to the lower court for a new probation violation hearing. In this case, the Court emphasized that the purpose of probation is rehabilitation, and revocation should be viewed as only a last resort.
Thus, technical violations should be examined more thoroughly rather than treated with a knee-jerk response. As is the case with many aspects of the criminal justice system, courts must utilize sound judgment while simultaneously balancing the state’s interest in maintaining public safety and insuring the probationer’s rehabilitation with the probationer’s freedom interests. This balance continues to remain relevant today.
Fighting a probation violation in Minnesota
Probation violations are neither black nor white. It’s not simply a matter of failing to uphold the terms and conditions of probation. There may be certain situations in which you had an emergency that prevented you from fulfilling some of the terms and conditions. While this may not excuse the violation, it may not rise to the level of a certain probation violation and subsequent revocation.
Contesting a probation violation in Minnesota can be an uphill battle, but retaining the services of a skilled and experienced defense attorney can help immensely by potentially convincing the judge to give you another chance or reduce your violation sentence.