When a criminal offender in the state of Washington is sentenced to probation, the court sets forth the guidelines and conditions of the probation. The offender must follow the rules to the letter during the term of probation or suffer potentially harsh legal consequences for a violation.
Exactly how does probation work in this state? If you are serving probation and you fail a drug test, what are the consequences? Will you have to go to jail? Will your drug crimes attorney have an opportunity to defend you against a violation of probation (VOP) charge?
HOW IS PROBATION USED IN THE STATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM?
Probation is usually only one part of the sentence for a criminal conviction in our state. Probation can be ordered along with fines, community service, court-ordered drug treatment or drug education, and a number of other possible penalties.
If a probationer violates the conditions or terms of his or her probation, the probation can be amended or revoked after a VOP hearing, and the offender may – in some cases – be required to serve time behind bars.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON PROBATION VIOLATIONS?
If you are accused of a violation of probation in this state, your future will hang in the balance.
You must be represented by a reliable Seattle criminal defense attorney who has abundant experience defending probationers at VOP hearings. The most frequent probation violations are:
- failing to appear for required appearances in court
- failing to pay court-ordered fines or court-ordered restitution
- failing to report to a probation officer as scheduled
- failing to show up for court-ordered rehabilitation or community service
- possessing contraband items such as stolen property, illegal drugs, and/or illegal firearms
- violating specific terms of probation regarding criminal acquaintances and locations
- committing a new crime or getting arrested for any reason
- failing a drug test
The specific terms and conditions of probation will depend on the details of an offender’s conviction and the offender’s previous convictions (if any). Particularly when the conviction is for a drug crime or a driving under the influence charge, random drug testing may be ordered.
IS RANDOM DRUG TESTING AN INVASION OF PRIVACY?
The Washington State Supreme Court reaffirmed in 2017 (in Washington v. Olsen) that random drug testing is not a privacy violation when it is a condition of probation.
The court held in that case that random drug testing conducted to monitor a probationer’s compliance with the terms of probation does not violate the probationer’s constitutional rights.
The Washington State Supreme Court additionally held that the state has a “compelling” interest in public safety and in encouraging a probationer’s rehabilitation.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU’RE ON PROBATION AND YOU FAIL A DRUG TEST?
Here is what you need to know if you are on probation in Washington, you fail a drug test, and you are charged with a violation of probation:
- As you’ve already been convicted of a crime, the state does not have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you violated probation. If a “preponderance of the evidence” points to guilt, meaning it’s “more likely than not” that you’re guilty, you’ll be convicted.
- You will not have the right to a trial by jury, either. At a VOP hearing, the verdict is determined by the judge alone. You will, however, have the right to be represented by an attorney, the right to call witnesses, and the right to present evidence in your defense.
- If you’re accused of violating probation or believe you will be, get legal help fast. Your freedom and future will be at stake. If you are charged with VOP in the Seattle area or anywhere in the state, contact an accomplished Seattle criminal defense attorney at once.
IF YOU’RE CHARGED WITH VOP, HOW CAN A DRUG CRIMES LAW FIRM IN WA HELP?
If you are charged with VOP because you’ve failed a drug test, in most cases, you and your attorney will probably need to show that the test results were in error or that the test was not properly administered. The specific defense strategy will depend on the details of the charge.
If you are found guilty of violating your probation for failing a drug test, the judge will take a number of factors into account to decide whether to revoke your probation, amend the terms of your probation, or give you a warning.
If your probation is revoked, you could be ordered to serve the remainder of your probation in custody. That is why it is so important to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer – as quickly as possible – if you are charged with violating your probation.
A defense lawyer will review the facts, gather evidence on your behalf, and develop a defense strategy that will bring your VOP hearing to its best possible conclusion.
Your attorney may be able to cast doubt on the accuracy of the drug test results or may challenge the credentials of the person who administered the test.
WHAT SHOULD YOU TELL YOUR ATTORNEY?
Additionally, if you were taking drugs prescribed by your doctor when you were tested, or if you suffer from a medical condition, that is the first thing that you should tell your defense attorney, because prescription medicines and illnesses frequently distort a drug test’s results.
In most VOP cases, your attorney will fight aggressively for a not guilty verdict, but if the state’s evidence against you is strong and a guilty verdict is inevitable, your attorney will seek leniency from the court and will ask the court to allow you to stay on probation despite the guilty verdict.
However, if you are serving probation in the state of Washington, you should understand that probation is already an expression of the court’s leniency, and if you have in fact violated probation, you should expect to be incarcerated.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER?
That’s why it’s best to comply with the conditions and terms of probation. If you are ordered to serve probation, take it seriously. The state of Washington does.
If you are charged – rightly or wrongly – with failing a drug test or with another probation violation, seek a good defense lawyer’s help as quickly as possible. You have that right.