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July 4, 2022

What Is Considered a Probation Violation In Pennsylvania?

What happens if you break the probation period? What conditions of your probation period must be fulfilled? And which lawyer can I turn to for help? Let's study these important questions.

What is a probation violation? Probation is a way of allowing you to stay out of jail or prison, typically under the supervision of your probation officer, and subject to many restrictions on your lifestyle. If you commit a violation of probation (VOP), you need a skilled criminal defense lawyer immediately.

What Are Violations of Probation?

A practical probation violation definition is “any violation of the terms of your probation.” Even drinking a beer might qualify as a VOP. If you commit a criminal probation violation, meaning that you violate your probation by committing a new crime, you could face the full wrath of Pennsylvania’s probation violation laws.

Pennsylvania’s new probation violation laws set harsh new sentencing guidelines for VOP offenders. By committing another crime, you will face penalties for the other crime independently of your probation violation. Do not fail to meet all terms of your probation.

Types of Probation Violations in Philadelphia

Pennsylvania classifies probation violations into two types - technical violations and new criminal charges. Either type of violation can mean big trouble for you.

Technical Probation Violations

probation violation laws

Your probation violation list (acts that you must not commit while on probation) includes activities that are perfectly legal for most people, such as:

  • Drinking alcohol;
  • Associating with known felons;
  • Changing your address without notifying your probation officer;
  • Missing a meeting with your probation officer;
  • Failing to complete certain classes such as alcohol education, substance abuse education, anger management, etc.
  • Refusing to take an alcohol or drug test on demand;
  • Refusing to provide a DNA sample at the request of your probation officer; or
  • Quitting your job.

Probation often lasts longer than jail would have if you had not been sentenced to probation. If the terms of probation are onerous, some people prefer jail so they can “get it over with.”

New Criminal Charge Probation Violation

It is not only a VOP to be convicted of a crime, it is a VOP to be charged, arrested, or even accused of a crime. You have a duty to report your charge to your probation officer, and failure to report is a probation violation in itself.

Your probation officer has the authority to arrest you for a “new criminal charge” probation violation. If this happens, you will be required to appear at a probation hearing within about two days. The greatest risk of going to jail or prison in response to a probation violation happens if you commit another crime while on probation.

Pennsylvania Probation Violation Consequences and Punishments

How do probation violations work? What happens when you violate probation? Probation violation proceedings are not criminal proceedings, and you do not have as many rights as you would in criminal court. The severity of the consequences when you break the rules of your probation depends on several factors, including:

  • The severity of your original offense;
  • Whether your violation is a technical violation or a new criminal charge;
  • The seriousness of your violation;
  • Whether you have committed parole violations in the past;
  • Various other factors.

Based on the foregoing factors, the judge will determine the consequences of your probation violation. These consequences could include:

  • Jail time, perhaps even for years if your original offense was a felony and your probation violation was serious;
  • A lengthened period of probation;
  • Mandatory completion of a certain number of hours of community service;
  • Mandatory completion of a drug rehabilitation program, anger management classes, etc.;
  • Continuance of your current probation, but with more serious restrictions.

Every case is different, and the quality of your legal representation is likely to make a big difference in the outcome. With luck, you might get away with only a stern lecture.

Legal Rights at a Probation Hearing

what is a probation violation

At a probation violation hearing, you have the following legal rights:

  • Written notification of the violation that Pennsylvania is accusing you of committing;
  • Representation by an attorney;
  • A hearing before a neutral judge;
  • The right to call witnesses and present evidence in your favor.

You do not have the right to a jury trial. The standard of proof is “a preponderance of the evidence”, which means something similar to “more likely than not”, rather than “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” That makes it much easier to find you guilty of a probation violation than for a criminal offense.


If Pennsylvania has charged you with violating your probation, contact a lawyer without delay. Penalties could range from very lenient to very severe, and the quality of your legal representation has a lot to do with the outcome of your case. Call Alan J. Tauber at (215) 575-0702 or contact us online.


How much jail time do you get for violating probation?

In a best-case scenario, you won’t get any jail time at all. There are many remedies short of imprisonment. If you do get jail time, in a worst-case scenario you could spend years in prison.

Is probation violation a felony?

In and of itself, a probation violation is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor. Selling cocaine while on probation is certainly a felony, of course, but if this happens, Pennsylvania will charge you with both probation violation and distribution of a controlled substance. This, of course, will mean double trouble for you.

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