Probation is a form of sentencing granted by the court to defendants convicted of crimes. A typical probation consists of a person being given certain restrictions on their behavior. This may involve drug or alcohol screening, restriction in movement, and check-ins with a probation officer. The Berks County Court of Common Pleas manages probation and parole through its Adult Probation & Parole Office, located in Reading, Pennsylvania. Berks County offers many variations of probationary proceedings, including ARD programs, intermediate punishment programs, second-time offender programs, and more.
Probation Violations in Berks County
When a person violates their probation, they will face penalties from the court. This can range from having to start their probationary period over from the beginning, to having to go to jail. Although defendants have already suffered a conviction, a probation violation (VOP) does allow for certain defenses from these consequences. Defendants are entitled to a hearing process for an alleged violation and may defend themselves in court against these allegations. There are two rounds of hearings to discuss a person's potential violation.
Gagnon I Hearings (Detainer Hearings) in Berks County
The first hearing a person faces will be known as a Gagnon I Hearing. This is sometimes referred to as a "detainer hearing," as it often makes the determination of whether or not an alleged probation violator will be allowed to remain outside of detention. These hearing are often held in front of a hearing officer designated by the Berks County court. The purpose of this hearing is for the probation officer to provide ample evidence that there is "probable cause" to go after an alleged violator for violation charges. Defendants may retain legal representation, and present evidence to support their side of the story.
Gagnon II Hearings (Violation of Probation/Parole) in Berks County
If the Gagnon I hearing is unsuccessful, the next hearing a defendant will face is a Gagnon II hearing, also known as a VOP hearing. These hearings are to be held in front of a judge, and they will be the final decision in whether or not a person has violated the terms of their probation or parole. Because the defendant in this hearing is already convicted of the crime, and these hearings are a matter of sentencing, defendants are not entitled to the same "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of evidence for the prosecutor to prove their violation. Instead, these hearings are settled on the standard of a "preponderance of evidence," a much lower standard.
Can a probation violation attorney help lift a detainer in Berks County?
Lifting a detainer in Berks County is not easy, but depending on the circumstances, may be possible. The position of the Berks County Probation Department, as may be expected, will generally not help defendants facing alleged probation or parole violations in Reading, PA. For example, the defendant's probation officer will almost always recommend that the detainer remain "in place" at the Gagnon I hearing pending the Gagnon II VOP hearing; which would generally take place before the defendant's "back" judge (the judge who sentenced the defendant).
If the proper steps are taken and an aggressive defense is mounted, however, the likelihood of getting the detainer lifted at the detainer hearing in Reading will be greatly increased. In fact, in limited instances, it may even be possible to get the "back" judge to order lifting the detainer in advance of the detainer hearing itself - if the judge approves that the detainer be lifted in advance of the Gagnon I hearing in Reading, the question of whether the detainer would otherwise remain in place will not be at issue at the time of the hearing itself.
Probation in Berks County, Pennsylvania
The Berks County Adult Probation Department is located at 633 Court Street, #7, Reading, PA 19601.
Berks County VOP Attorney | Reading Violation of Probation Attorney
For defendants facing probation hearings in Reading, their future and freedom hangs in the balance. These hearings have much lower standards of evidence than a criminal hearing and can result in much more severe consequences. These hearings should be undergone with the help of an attorney, who may defend a probationer or parolee from the prosecution. Probation is a delicate situation, and courts are much more inclined to trust the word of a probation officer rather than a defendant.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento worked as a probation officer while attending Temple University's Beasley School of Law at night, and he knows which defense strategies will work best when a client is facing a violation of probation or parole in Reading. Whether the violation is due to a new arrest, positive drug screen, failure to report, or any other factor, Joseph Lento knows how to approach the Berks County Court, the judge, the Berks County Prosecutor's Office, and the probation officer, and he is not satisfied until he gets his clients the best possible result. Joseph's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's probation violation from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client.