Being placed on probation (or being granted county parole) in Montgomery County is obviously better than serving time or jail (or in cases involving county parole, serving additional time in jail). The problem that can arise, however, is when a person on Montgomery County probation is accused of violating his or her probation (or county parole).
Specific steps, explained below, have to followed in Montgomery County when a person is accused of a violation, but if found in violation, a person's probation (or county parole) can be revoked, and if revoked, a person can face a longer period of probation and the imposition of burdensome conditions at a minimum. Moreover, depending on the nature of the violation and the original charges, the prospect of a significant period of time in jail or prison can be likely.
Understanding that much is at stake is as important as understanding how Montgomery County handles violations of probation (and county parole).
How does the probation violation process in Montgomery County start?
Probation violations in Montgomery County, PA, are generally handled by the filing of a "detainer" by the Montgomery County Adult Probation Department which is located at 408 Cherry Street, Norristown, PA, 19404. The phone number to the Adult Probation Department is 610-992-7777.
The Montgomery County Adult Probation Department is located at:
There is also a satellite office located in Willow Grove. The Willow Grove Office is located at 102 Old York Road, Suite 203, Willow Grove, PA, 19090, and the phone number is 215-784-5407.
The Willow Grove Office of the Montgomery County Adult Probation Department is located at:
Will a detainer be lodged on a person accused of violating probation in Montgomery County?
The Montgomery County Probation Department, generally through the defendant's probation officer, can lodge a detainer for technical violations or a substantive violation. A technical violation of probation in Montgomery County can include, for example, a failed drug screen, missed appointment with the defendant's probation officer, failure to comply with drug and/or alcohol counseling, and failure to pay fines, court costs, or restitution. Unfortunately, the list of potential technical violations can be exhaustive. A substantive violation would be a new arrest and new criminal charges for example. If the new charges result in a conviction, the violation will be considered a "direct" violation.
Does the Montgomery County Probation Department have to notify the defendant of the probation violation(s)?
Once a detainer is lodged in Montgomery County, the defendant's probation officer is required to served a "Notice" of the Probation Violation upon the defendant. If the defendant is in custody in Montgomery County, notice will usually be served at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility which is located in Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County. The jail's address is 60 Eagleville Road, Eagleville PA, 19403.
The Montgomery County Jail is located at:
After the defendant's probation officer provides the defendant with notice of the probation violation, whether technical or substantive, the probation officer is required to notify the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, located in Norristown, PA, that a detainer has been lodged on the person accused of violating his or her probation. The Montgomery Court of Common Pleas, located at 2 E. Airy Street, Norristown, PA 19401, is the 38th Judicial District of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, and has a complement of 23 full-time judges (not all of whom sit in the criminal division).
The Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas is located at:
What happens if a defendant is in technical violation of their probation?
If it is a technical violation that causes the detainer to be lodged, there is a not well-known procedure for dealing with the violation. An experienced private attorney, however, will contact the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office on the defendant's behalf to determine how to get the alleged probation violator onto the weekly list for "Video Teleconference Technical Reviews" held by the Montgomery County Court.
What happens if a defendant is in substantive and/or direct violation of their probation?
If it is a substantive violation, the unfortunate reality is that the person accused of violating his or her probation will likely sit in jail until the violation of probation hearing, also known as the "VOP" hearing, is scheduled by the judge whose probation (or Montgomery County parole) has been allegedly violated by the defendant. The judge is also known as the defendant's "back" judge because the defendant may be subject to his or her "back" time, or time remaining on the original sentence. For example, if a person was sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months in the Montgomery County Jail to be followed by two years' probation and was paroled after 11 1/2 months, the defendant could face the remaining back time of the original sentence (23 months - 11 1/2 months = 11 1/2 months' back time) in addition to other potential consequences.
A substantive violation, such as a new arrest and new criminal charges, will become a "direct" violation if the defendant is convicted of the new offense. A direct violation of probation puts a defendant in the least favorable position when having to appear before his or her back judge.
Whenever a defendant and his or her family are in a position to hire an experienced attorney to address the probation violation, that step must be taken. This is because not only is so much is at stake when facing a VOP hearing in Montgomery County, but also because of the likely major concern that a defendant can (and will) sit in jail for an inordinate amount of time pending the VOP hearing unless the defendant's attorney is actively pushing for the earliest possible court date. Unlike some other Pennsylvania counties where VOP proceedings take place in a more timely manner, this is an unfortunate reality of the Montgomery County probation violation process.
How can a person in violation of probation in Montgomery County get the earliest possible VOP date?
An experienced attorney who strives for the best possible result for a defendant detained in Montgomery County will contact the back judge's secretary and request that the violation of probation hearing be scheduled as soon as possible. As with all Pennsylvania counties, there will be a Gagnon I hearing and a Gagnon II hearing.
What is the Gagnon I hearing in Montgomery County?
The Gagnon I hearing in Montgomery County is the "probable cause" hearing to determine if there is a sufficient basis for the violation proceedings to proceed forward. If the person accused of violating his or her probation in Montgomery County incurred a new arrest, a preliminary hearing is scheduled for the new criminal case. In such an instance, the preliminary hearing can serve as the Gagnon I hearing. The reason being that if the applicable magisterial district court (of which there are 30 in Montgomery County) determined that there is a "prima facie" case against the defendant regarding the new charges (more likely than not that a crime was committed and the person charged was involved), the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, generally through the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, has met its burden in establishing that there is in fact a violation of probation.
What is the Gagnon II hearing in Montgomery County?
The Gagnon II hearing in Montgomery County is the actual violation hearing and is scheduled after the Gagnon I hearing, as the names of the proceedings may imply.
If the person accused of violating his or her probation in Montgomery County intends to contest the allegations at the VOP hearing, the Court must be notified that it will be a "contested" hearing. When this notification takes place, Montgomery County Court Administration, in cooperation with the back judge's chambers, will specially list the hearing. If the defendant's attorney does not notify the Court, the judge will expect that the violation hearing will proceed without contest, and the matter may not proceed as smoothly as would be the case if the proper steps are taken in advance.
Can an attorney try to negotiate with the probation officer to get a better sentence?
Ultimately, an experienced attorney can, and should, attempt to negotiate a better prospective sentence for the defendant than what is recommended by the Montgomery County Probation Department.
Attorney to Help With Montgomery County Probation Violation
Facing a violation of probation anywhere in Pennsylvania is challenging, but the potential concerns are compounded in Montgomery County because a person accused can sit in custody for a significant period of time before a hearing is even scheduled. A person charged with a probation violation and his or her family should make sure that their interests are protected and that a dedicated attorney is in the defendant's corner working to not only get the earliest possible court date, but also the best possible outcome.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been passionately fighting for years to make his clients' difficult situations better. In addition, he understands the often unreasonable world of probation through his years working as a probation officer while attending Temple University Beasley School at night. He knows how to approach the probation officer, the prosecutor, the judge, and any other necessary parties in an effort to get a person accused of violating probation the best possible result often in the face of challenging circumstances. Contact him today to learn how he can help.