A client on probation in the Middlesex Superior Court was found to have not violated his terms of probation despite being charged with a crime while on probation. The judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence that the probationer had committed the new offense. After a full evidentiary hearing with multiple witnesses for the prosecution and one witness for the defense, the judge agreed that even under the lower standard of proof applied to probation revocation hearings, the Government had not proved that the probationer had broken the law while on probation.
Most people know that when someone is charged with a crime, they cannot be convicted unless the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense. This can be done at a trial or by the person pleading guilty. However, if the person is on probation at the time that they are charged with a new crime, they can face separate consequences for violating the conditions of their probation which always includes abiding by federal, state, and local laws. But probation violations only need to be proved by a preponderance of evidence standard, which is much lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. So in theory, someone can be found not guilty at trial but still be found in violation of their probation based on the exact same evidence. To make things even more difficult for the probationer, hearsay (things that were said outside of the courtroom) can be admitted at the probation hearing which would not be allowed at trial. Someone who is both convicted of the crime and found in violation of their probation can effectively be punished twice: once for the conviction and again for violating their probation.
If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime while on probation, you need an experience lawyer who will represent you on the new case and at the probation hearing. It is essential to have someone representing you who understands the different standards of proof and the rules surrounding admissibility of hearsay at probation hearings. Please contact our office for a consultation.