Unsupervised probation is a common tool that prosecutors and judges use for low-risk offenders. This allows the court to order certain terms to help ensure that the defendant does not commit additional crimes, but it does not require the close supervision and control of formal probation. A judge may order you to remain free from drug use as part of informal probation, and using drugs on probation can have serious penalties. For help understanding informal probation, contact the Atlantic City probation violation lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our attorneys explain some of the potential penalties for failing a drug test while on unsupervised probation in NJ.

What is NJ Unsupervised Probation?

To understand the penalties for unsupervised probation, you must first understand what exactly unsupervised probation is and how it differs from standard “probation.” Commonly, probation is classified as “formal” probation or “informal” probation (also commonly called “unsupervised” probation). There are important differences between these two types of probation which help you understand the potential penalties for violating either type of probation.

Types of Probation in NJ

Formal probation is an alternative to jail time. Instead of putting you in jail where guards can supervise you 24/7 and forcibly prevent you from committing additional crimes, formal probation puts you under supervision while allowing you to stay out of lockup. Under formal probation, you will be assigned a probation officer. This officer will require you to check in on a regular schedule and report what you are doing, where you are working, whether you’ve committed additional crimes, and any additional information they ask for. A probation officer also has the right to search your house, your car, your person, and other locations at any time, according to the terms of the probation agreement. This may also include the right to give random or scheduled drug tests.

Informal or unsupervised probation removes the direct supervision element of formal probation. This means that people on informal probation do not normally need to check in with a probation officer, but it does not make probation any less serious. Instead, it simply gives the defendant more freedom and less supervision.

Terms of Probation

Both formal and informal probation will also include terms that control or restrict your conduct. For instance, probation will usually require you to remain free from additional crimes and request permission before leaving the state. Judges commonly use probation as a way of ensuring that defendants perform helpful programs like community service or drug and alcohol rehabilitation by requiring them as part of the terms of probation.

Drug testing is commonly ordered for any drug offense, particularly drug possession. However, drug testing could be ordered as a standard term of formal or informal probation on any case.

Failing a drug test is not exactly a crime by itself, but drug use and drug possession are both independent crimes. Failing a drug test not only violates the terms of your supervision by violating the drug testing requirement, but it also provides evidence that you committed a drug crime while on probation, which is also a violation.

Penalties for Violating Informal Probation in NJ

If you violate your probation, you may face severe penalties, even for unsupervised probation. Even though you may not need to check in with a probation officer as part of informal probation, the court may still require you to obey other terms of probation. If one of those terms is to pass a drug test, you can have your probation revoked for violating probation by failing a drug test.

Without supervision by a probation officer, courts will typically request that you complete probation requirements (e.g., classes or community service) and check in directly with the court at various status hearings. The court may require scheduled drug testing ahead of these hearings and will address any failed drug tests in court. If you are scheduled for drug testing out of court, a judge may also order your arrest and appearance at a probation violation hearing.

When you violate any term of probation, even minor or technical terms, you face the risk of having your probation revoked. Judges usually set a term of imprisonment as a “suspended sentence” for probation. If you violate the terms of your probation, the judge can revoke your probation and automatically activate the jail sentence, sending you straight to jail.

Informal probation is usually ordered for nonviolent offenses and in situations where formal probation seems too harsh. If formal probation is too harsh of a penalty for your crime, it seems logical that sending you to jail might be far too harsh. In many informal probation cases, the judge may decide to modify your existing probation instead of sending you to jail.

This could mean adding terms to your probation, such as community service, increased frequency of drug testing, or formal supervision, converting your informal probation into formal probation.

Atlantic City Probation Violation Lawyer Offering Free Legal Consultations

If you believe that you will fail a drug test or you have already failed a drug test, contact a lawyer immediately. Any probation violations can lead to jail time or increased supervision while on probation. For help with your probation violation case, contact the Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 625-3006.