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Probation Violations In Pennsylvania

Information on what happens when you violate probation in PA

If you have violated the terms of your probation in Pennsylvania, you are likely stressed for your future and faced with serious consequences. Probation violations are taken very seriously in Pennsylvania and your freedom and rights could be at risk.

If you have failed to follow the terms of your probation, or have received a warning about your behavior, consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your rights. Get a free case evaluation from Attorney Christopher Thomas today.

Each person’s probation terms are unique. There are some basic rules that most everyone on probation must follow, but a judge can add any additional terms he deems reasonable. Probation violation cases move quickly, so it is important that you do not wait to seek help.

This is your life. You have rights.

Pittsburgh Criminal Attorney Christopher Thomas is here to listen to your situation and help you understand your rights so that together you can fight for them. This is a crucial time for you and your family. Call attorney Christopher Thomas today for a free legal case evaluation.

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The Difference Between Probation And Parole

Probation is often confused with parole. The two situations may seem similar in the sense that you are monitored by an officer and have to follow specific terms to remain free, but they are, in fact, two different things entirely.

Parole is when you have served jail time and are released early for some reason, such as good behavior. Upon release from prison, you have a parole officer to report to, and conditions to follow, as part of your early release.

Probation is a situation where you are monitored by a probation officer and have specific terms to follow in lieu of being sent to prison. You have NOT served prison time and may remain free so long as you satisfy the conditions and requirements set forth as part of your probation.

In certain instances, those found guilty of a crime are offered probation as an alternative to jail time. The rules of probation are generally established by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. However, during sentencing, a judge will determine any additional conditions of your probation and you will be assigned a probation officer to monitor your fulfillment of all of the requirements during the probationary period.

Since you are allowed to maintain the majority of your freedom during probation, the terms are taken very seriously and are expected to be followed until the end date of your probation.

Failure to follow the terms can lead to harsh consequences – including the revocation of your probation and being sent to jail.

Common Probation Violations In Pennsylvania

The terms of probation are on a case-by-case basis and no two probations may be the same. A judge can set any terms of probation that he deems reasonable. However, there are a number of common requirements among all persons on probation.

A violation of any of the terms of your probation, whether set by the judge or your probation officer, are equal transgressions. You are expected to follow ALL of the conditions in order to remain free from incarceration.

There are substantive violations, such as committing a new crime while on probation. And there are technical violations, such as failing to report a change of address or change in employment to your probation officer.

A substantive violation is more severe, and thus, punishment is likely to be harsher than a technical violation. However, repeated technical violations are taken very seriously.

Some of the most common probation violations include:

  • Failure to check in with the probation officer at the designated times
  • Failing a drug and/or alcohol test
  • Failing to find and/or keep a job
  • Failing to pay any fees, restitution and/or fines owed
  • Failing to complete counseling
  • Removal of a monitoring device
  • Commission of a crime or conviction in a new criminal case

The Procedure After A Probation Violation In Pennsylvania

Even after you have been found guilty of a crime and placed on probation, you are still entitled to due process in the event of a violation. After a violation occurs, your probation officer is required to notify the court and file a petition in order to get the process started. You are then going to be granted two hearings known as the Gagnon I and Gagnon II hearings.

The Gagnon hearings are named such after the U.S. Supreme Court case Gagnon v. Scarpelli (1973).


A Gagnon I hearing is fairly informal and similar to a preliminary hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to determine if there is probable cause. The burden of proof is on your probation officer. If it is found that there is probable cause for a probation violation, you will proceed to a Gagnon II hearing. It is possible that the judge can make you await your Gagnon II hearing in jail.


A Gagnon II hearing is set to determine if you did, in fact, violate the terms of your probation. This hearing is more formal and witnesses can be presented.

The standard in a Gagnon II hearing is by “preponderance of the evidence” which means that it is more likely than not that you violated your probation. It is a lesser standard that the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal trials.

The judge from your original sentencing is likely to preside over your Gagnon II hearing. The judge will then make a ruling and you will either be found not guilty of violating your probation, or, you will be re-sentenced – often on the recommendations offered by your probation officer.

The Gagnon II is the final ruling in your probation violation case.

You are allowed to have an attorney represent you at BOTH the Gagnon I and the Gagnon II hearings. It is extremely important that you have an experienced criminal attorney on your side. It could mean the difference between a change in your probation and incarceration.

Punishment For Probation Violations In Pennsylvania

If you are found to have violated the terms of your probation, your punishment can range anywhere from a strict warning to being sent to prison. The judge in your case can sentence you to any period of jail time or probation that was available to him/her at your original sentencing.

For instance, if you are sentenced to probation for two years and fulfill 23 months of the obligations required, and then violate your probation by committing another crime, the judge can sentence you to two more years of probation OR to whatever amount of jail time you could have received in your original sentencing. You would not get any credit for the amount of time that you followed the terms of probation if you committed another crime.

This is why it is important to have an experienced and aggressive criminal lawyer on your side who understands the law and can present a solid defense strategy to get the best possible outcome for your case..

A criminal lawyer can help you understand your rights and prepare you for the hearings.

Pittsburgh Criminal Attorneys Making A Difference

Our criminal defense attorneys believe that people are inherently good. But good people make mistakes and some are falsely accused. A harsh punishment is rarely productive for anyone.

Defendants also have families who have to bear the burden of their loved one being sentenced to jail and losing their job or their license.

Our aggressive and hard working attorneys are here to guide you through a difficult time.

Tell Us Your Stories and Ask Us Your Questions

Call 412-765-3345 for a free case evaluation. We are available by phone, email or in-person.

SMA Law Group believes in aggressively representing our clients while maintaining the personal compassion needed when counseling clients through difficult situations and navigating a complex legal system. Contact us today.


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