Probation is a central feature of most justice systems, and when it works well, it can help rehabilitate offenders and give them a chance to reintegrate into society while providing guardrails that will help keep them from reoffending.
Probation can also be used as part of a conditional discharge, suspended sentence, or intermittent sentence as an alternative to jail time.
But probation covers a wide range of injunctions, and when probation is violated it can lead to serious consequences. Those violating probation while awaiting trial can face added charges, and violating probation can lead to harsher penalties and a longer sentence.
What are the Consequences of Probation Violation?
One of the things that makes probation violation a complicated legal area is the fact that, while it can lead to criminal charges and jail time, it is not itself technically a criminal offence. Breaking probation is, in most cases, an offence against the court system rather than an offence against another citizen.
But there are many different types of probation violation, and some of them have more serious consequences than others. In Ontario, each of the following things is considered a violation of probation:
- Failure to Appear in court
- Breach of Court Order
- Obstruction of Justice
- Resisting Arrest
- Escaping Lawful Custody
The difference in severity between these offences is reflected in the penalties a court can inflict. For example, Failing to Appear in court is a hybrid offence punishable by up to two years in prison, while Perjury is an indictable offence that can put you behind bars for as long as fourteen years.
Do You Have to Plead Guilty to a Probation Violation?
Probation violation charges can be laid for many reasons, but no matter what your particular circumstances are, you are never under any obligation to plead guilty. A guilty plea will end up on your permanent record, and can haunt you for years to come.
Instead, you should make sure to get in touch with a Toronto criminal defense lawyer who works on probation cases before you talk to the police. A probation offense lawyer will be able to guide your approach to the case and advise you on what to say.
In many cases, there are very good reasons why someone may miss their court date and wind up charged with Failing to Appear, and having an experienced criminal lawyer on your side can mean the difference between a minor penalty and jail time.
Ontario’s probation system has come in for criticism on many occasions, and the rules are not always applied consistently, which is one of the reasons it is so important to understand how the law applies to probation violation, and to ensure that you understand what your responsibilities are if you are currently on probation.
Should you be charged with violation, the first thing to do is secure the services of a criminal defense lawyer familiar with Ontario probation law who can advise you on the full range of options available to you.