Defendants facing criminal charges in Cook County should be concerned about the possibility of jail or prison time. However, only a small percentage of first-time offenders charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies will be sentenced to jail or prison. Most of these first-time offenders will be put on probation.
Typically, attorneys explain to defendants what the terms and conditions of their probation is and judges–by statute–are required to provide defendants with a certificate setting forth the conditions. Defendants receive a copy of this certificate from the clerk’s office and in Cook County are required to sign it.
The conditions of probation are generally straightforward: (1) do not break the law; (2) report to probation and court as required; and (3) do not leave the state without consent of the court.
Probation does not guarantee you will not go to prison. Probation is essentially a stay of prison so long as you complete the terms and conditions of your sentence, as well as, terms and conditions of your probation. Judges are authorized to place a defendant on probation with certain terms and conditions, such as:
- 100 hours of independent community service
- Random urine drops
- No-contact with victim(s)
- Electronic monitoring
- Completion of a GED
- Maintain employment
- No consumption of drugs/alcohol
- Home confinement
(For more information about the terms and conditions of probation see 730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.)
If a defendant violates a condition of his or her probation, the State’s Attorney may file a violation pursuant to 730 ILCS 5/5-6-4 entitled “Violation, Modification or Revocation of Probation, of Conditional Discharge or Supervision or of a sentence of county impact incarceration – Hearing.”
The court then conducts a hearing of the alleged violation. The State has the burden of going forward with the evidence and proving the violation by the preponderance of the evidence.
Unlike criminal cases in which the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors in probation hearings must only prove the defendant’s guilt by the civil standard – a preponderance of evidence. Basically, this means they must prove that it is more likely than not that the violation occurred.
If the court finds that the offender has violated a condition at any time prior to the expiration or termination of the period, it may continue the offender on the existing sentence, with or without modifying or enlarging the conditions, or may impose any other sentence. The court may also revoke the probation all together, based on the severity of the violation. This judgement can be appealed.
It is recommended that you speak with an attorney for help with probation hearings or appeals. Contact Richard at Fenbert & Associates, LLC for a free consultation.