Probation Officer’s Hearsay Testimony Insufficient to Prove You Violated Your Probation

Has your Probation Officer either threatened to violate, or actually violated, your probation?  If so, there are many ways a knowledgeable Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer can help prevent, or substantially reduce, any adverse effects on you.  A recent case from the First District Court of Appeal provides one example.

Jalyn Viriginia Brownsworth plead no contest to grand theft and was sentenced to 24 months of probation. Shortly after imposition of sentence, her probation officer filed an affidavit of violation of probation alleging Jalyn had failed to submit to undergo a required drug/alcohol evaluation.

At the revocation hearing, Jalyn’s probation officer testified she had been scheduled for an evaluation that later required rescheduling.  The probation officer further testified that when she later contacted the evaluation facility staff, she was told Jalyn failed to attend the rescheduled appointment.  Based on Jalyn’s purported failure to attend the rescheduled evaluation as related by the probation officer, the trial court found Jalyn to have violated her probation.  Jalyn appealed.

The appellate court initially noted that in deciding whether to revoke a defendant’s probation, the trial court as broad discretion.  The trial court must determine, by the greater weight of the evidence, whether the facts and circumstances demonstrate a willful and substantial violation. The court further noted, however, that although hearsay is admissible to prove a willful and substantial violation of probation, it may not serve as the sole basis, and must be corroborated by non-hearsay evidence.

The court then examined the proof of Jalyn’s probation violation offered against her.  In that regard, the court found the only presented evidence of Jalyn’s failure to attend her evaluation appointment was the probation officer’s hearsay testimony relating to her telephone conversation with an evaluation facility employee. That testimony was hearsay because it consisted of the probation officer testifying in court about what someone else allegedly told her.

The appellate court then observed no non-hearsay evidence was presented to either prove Jalyn’s probation violation or to corroborate the probation officer’s testimony. The court therefore found the trial court had abused its discretion by relying exclusively on uncorroborated hearsay evidence in support of its revocation order.  Jalyn’s revocation order was reversed.

If you’ve been accused of violating your probation, the evidence against you may be insufficient to prove a violation either because it is hearsay, or because it does not show you willfully or substantially violated any conditions stated in your order of probation.  In that event your probation may able to be reinstated, or modified and continued so that you can remain on probation and not have to go to jail or prison.   Call me for a free consultation to discuss how I can help you have the best chance of avoiding a violation of your probation in Duval, Clay, Nassau, Baker or St. Johns Counties.

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