Successfully Navigating Probation in Michigan

What happens if I violate the terms of probation?

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on April 21, 2023

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Sentencing hearings come at the conclusion of criminal cases. If an alleged charge becomes a guilty verdict at any point in time throughout a case, it becomes the job of the judge to determine the proper sentencing.

The penalties that can be levied include jail or prison time, as well as fines. There’s also probation—an attempt to ensure that a person will not commit the same, or a similar, crime again.

What Is Probation?

Probation is a set of rules, or prohibitions, on the actions of a guilty person. It lasts a set amount of time.

How Are These Conditions of Probation Determined?

Most of the time, before the sentencing hearing, a circuit court judge will require the guilty party to meet with a probation officer (PO) for a pre-sentence investigation (PSI). This interview will involve a detailed set of questions related to the crime.

For example, if the crime is drug related, the interview may explore the reasons behind the use and how best to prevent substance abuse in the future (or, similarly, alcohol related use after a drunk driving or DUI offense).

If the judge states a person is to be placed on probation, they are obligated to inform the guilty party of the requirements of that probation—which are generally based on recommendations from the PO after the PSI.

What Will Probation Look Like?

  • There will be regular meetings with a PO. They’ll taper off time as the probation isn’t violated.
  • Often in the state of Michigan, even if drugs weren’t involved in the offense, there will probably be random, same-day drug testing (or, sometimes, alcohol testing). This is more frequent at the beginning, but, again, as time passes without incidents, the testing will taper off.
  • The probationer will most likely be prohibited from entering an establishment that serves or sells alcohol, and often will be prohibited from consuming alcohol or drugs (valid prescriptions are OK).
  • If you committed a violent crime, you will not be allowed any contact with the victim.
  • There will most likely be required counseling, therapy or victim impact panels.
  • You will most likely need to pay all fines during the probation period.
  • You may be asked to engage in community service.

What Happens if I Violate My Probation Requirements?

Probation is considered an alternative sentencing model in the court system. If the conditions set out by the judge at sentencing are not followed, a hearing will take place:

  1. The hearing may simply the probationer of their obligations, and sends them on their way.
  2. The hearing may extend the length of the probation and potentially add additional fines in an effort to remind the probationer of their obligations.
  3. The hearing may revoke the probation, sending the guilty party to jail or prison for a length of time up to the maximum sentence allowed by the crime committed.

The first of these hearings is fairly rare. It generally happens in a drug deferment program probation wherein the PO hasn’t heard from a probationer, or the probationer is testing positively on his or her drug tests.

The second is frequent with people who have failed to contact their probation department or are not fulfilling all of their obligations. Often, judges have a one-strike policy for violations of probation; this level constitutes the second strike.

Unfortunately, most probation violation hearings involve revocation. Because, generally, if someone is violating their probation, they are doing it on multiple fronts.

What Should I Do if I’m on Probation?

Follow the rules: pay your fines, test cleanly and wait out the time. Often, probation length is determined by the amount of time it will take a guilty party to pay off their fines. For example, most misdemeanors involve approximately $1200 in fines and other costs. If one pays $120 per month, probation will be set at 10 months.

If there is a hearing in your future, however, be certain to find a reputable and experienced criminal defense attorney. Many criminal defense attorneys provide free consultations to learn about your legal issues. For more information on this area of law, see our overview of criminal law.

What do I do next?

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