Probation Violations in Minnesota
When someone is sentenced after pleading guilty or being found guilty of a felony, the court can either send the person to prison or place them on probation. When placing a person on probation the court normally stays the imposition or execution of sentence, so the prison time is “hanging over your head”. The conditions of probation can include serving up to 1 year in a county jail. A person accused of violating felony probation is entitled to a hearing where the court will determine whether or not probation was violated, and what should be done.
Minnesota Statute 609.14 and Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 27.04 govern probation revocation proceedings. When it appears that a person has violated any condition of probation the court may revoke the stay and take the person into custody. When revoking probation, the court must designate the specific conditions that were violated, find that the violation was intentional or inexcusable, and find that the need for confinement outweighs the policies favoring probation.
Is the Probation Violation Intentional and Inexcusable?
An example of the court’s analysis is contained in this Minnesota Supreme Court decision, State v. Modtland, 695 N.W.2d 602, 605 (Minn. 2005), where the district court judge found that Mr. Modtland violated his probation and sent him to prison. But the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case back to district court for a new probation violation hearing, because the judge did not address whether his violation was intentional and inexcusable and the need for prison outweighed the polices favoring probation. This decision emphasized that the district courts must bear in mind that policy considerations may require that probation not be revoked even though the facts may allow it and that the purpose of probation is rehabilitation, and revocation should be used only as a last resort. When making this determination, the court must not reflexively revoke probation just to punish mere technical violations. The courts must base their decisions on sound judgment and balance the probationer’s interest in freedom and the state’s interest in insuring his rehabilitation and the public safety. The careful balance between public safety and rehabilitation remains relevant today.
Contacting an attorney about probation violations:
There are many situations where a person facing a probation violation can be reinstated on probation rather than being sent to prison. If you or someone you know has questions about a probation violation, I welcome you to contact me to discuss what needs to be done. I can help.