Probation is used by the courts as an alternative to going or staying in prison. The idea behind probation is that the offender will benefit from some restrictions and guidance but it may be detrimental for the individual be incarcerated. Probation is only granted where the judge believes that the conditions of probation will keep the offender from committing further crimes or being a hazard to the public. There can be many requirements of probation and not fulfilling any one of them can lead to a charge of breach of probation.
A person on probation must comply with the three compulsory probation requirements and any other optional probation requirements that are mandated by the court. The mandatory requirements are that the offender:
- keep the peace and be of good behavior;
- appear before the court when required to do so by the court; and
- notify the court or the probation officer in advance of any change of name or address, and promptly notify the court or the probation officer of any change of employment or occupation.
Other probation requirements can include reporting to a probation officer, performing community service, attending drug or alcohol treatment programs, or any other provisions that the judge feels are reasonably necessary to reintegrate the offender back into society.
A person commits the offence of breach of probation if he or she does not follow any of the mandatory or optional probation conditions listed in the individual’s order of probation. Breach of probation is a separate offence from the original charge that led to the probation. If found guilty of breach of probation, an individual can be subject to up to two years in prison if the offence is charged as an indictable offence or if the offence is punished on summary conviction, a fine of up to $5,000 and/or six months in prison.
There are many ways to defend against a breach of probation charge. The Crown may overlook some requirements in proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt. In some cases, circumstances make it necessary to breach probation which can be a valid defence to a breach of probation. A lawyer can spot oversights in the Crown’s proceeding, help you build a case for a necessary breach, or determine what other options may be available given your particular situation.