There is perhaps no single, less-legally sophisticated area of Criminal Practice than handling a Probation Violation. The problem stems from the fact that the client has usually, but not always, quite obviously violated some term of his or her probation. Often, it involves either a positive drug test or getting charged with a new crime while on probation. Sometimes, it can result from the Defendant not completing what they were ordered to do, or not fully paying any outstanding fines and costs.
In some cases, what is alleged as the violation is simply not true, and a good lawyer will help his or her client prove to the court that they did NOT, in fact, violate the terms of their probation. When that happens, the Probation Violation, or as it’s sometimes called, the Show Cause is dismissed.
In the majority of cases, however, the client is left confronting that positive drug test, or has indeed picked up a new charge, or has failed to report to probation or not completed something the court ordered them to do.
In those cases, you need a lawyer who is persuasive. To be blunt about it, your lawyer better have enough charm to sell bibles to atheists, because it is in large part that charisma which will be necessary to keep the Judge from handing down a jail sentence.
I hope the reader will agree that up to this point, I have been quite the opposite of an alarmist or a sensationalist as I’ve described the legal process. Here however, things change. If the Judge has agreed to not put you in (or let you out of) jail in exchange for your agreement to follow the terms of probation, and you have to go back in front of that very Judge for slipping up somehow, it is an understatement to think the Judge won’t be very happy with you. Your lawyer better be able to talk that Judge down from his or her anger or impatience with you and present some alternative to simply locking you up.
In such a case, several things are at play. First, I think it’s always better to go in front of a Judge who is familiar with your lawyer. Now is not the time to have your lawyer meet the Judge for the first time. Second, your lawyer better be, in fact, persuasive. If he or she is simply going to drone on about how sorry you are and how you won’t do it again, then you should probably save your money and just go alone, or with a court-appointed attorney. When you plunk the money down to hire a lawyer for a Probation Violation, it is with one thing in mind: Keep me out of jail. You need a spokesperson that sounds good to you. Just because some lawyer kept your friend’s brother out of jail once, or won a high-profile murder case a while ago, does not mean that he or she has the charisma to keep you out of jail now, in this circumstance.
What do I think is the best method for deciding who to hire? Talking. Talk to the lawyers you are considering. Ask them questions, including how often are you in front of this Judge, and how much do you charge? For my part, I charge between $1000 and $2000 for Probation Violations. If the person you're speaking with doesn’t grab your interest, if they don’t seem persuasive or charismatic to you, then chances are your gut instinct is correct. Of course, I hope you call me as part of your search, but whatever you do, you owe it to yourself to call around and get a feel for who is out there, what they charge, and how you feel about them.