Areas of Practice


Probation Violations

What is a probation violation hearing?

A probation violation hearing in Massachusetts is a hearing requested by the probation department alleging that you violated the terms of your probation. When a defendant accepts a plea agreement to a criminal charge, in some cases, the defendant will be placed on probation, meaning that the defendant agrees to certain conditions in exchange for resolving the case prior to trial.

What are types of violations of probation?

  • Being charged with a new criminal offense on probation.
  • Failing to abide by conditions of probation such as alcohol treatment, drug treatment, or completion of a certified batterer's program or anger management program
  • Failing to complete any other program ordered by the court.
  • Failing to appear in court, to report to probation for to pay money owed to the court or to the victim in the case.

Being held without bail pending probation violation hearing: At the initial hearing date, the probation department may request a detention, meaning the probation department may request that the defendant be detained prior to a full hearing on the issue of whether the defendant violated his or her terms of probation. In cases where probation is seeking a preliminary detention, there will be an argument before the judge as to whether there is probable cause to believe a violation occurred and whether the judge should exercise his or her discretion to detain a probationer prior to a full evidentiary hearing.

Court process in probation violation hearings: After the preliminary hearing, the probation detention or surrender matter will be set down for a final hearing. A probationer is entitled to an evidentiary hearing as to whether there was a violation of probation. A Massachusetts criminal attorney will speak to probation to determine what probation will recommend to the court as a sanction for the violation of probation. The sanction for a probation violation could include jail time, up to the statutory maximum penalties, a modification of probation or extension of probation.

The standard of proof at a surrender hearing is “preponderance of the evidence” which is a much lower bar for the Commonwealth than “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Attorney Tripp has handled a wide variety of probation surrenders in the District and Superior Court.

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