If you are not successful on probation, the court will revoke it, and you can be sentenced all over again on the original charges. The court can send you to jail or prison, or the court can choose to give you another chance on probation.
There are two general reasons why district attorneys will ask the judge to revoke your probation. First, there is always a condition of your probation that you do not commit any other criminal offense while on probation. Doing so is referred to as a new case violation. The court cannot revoke your probation in this situation unless you are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on the new charge, or if you plead guilty.
The second reason that district attorneys will try to revoke your probation is for what are called "technical" violations. This can include many different things - or a combination of things - that you have done wrong, or failed to do altogether. Examples of common technical violations include:
- Failure to report to your probation officer as directed.
- Failure to complete court-ordered classes and treatment.
- Failure to pay court costs, fines, or restitution.
- Failure to do court-ordered public service.
- Consumption of alcohol or drugs when that has been prohibited by the court.
- Leaving the jurisdiction while on probation without permission.
There are many more examples of actions (or inactions) on your part that will cause your probation officer to file a "complaint" with the court, alleging that you are in violation. There is one very important difference between a complaint based on these technical violations, and a complaint alleging that you have picked up a new criminal charge. As mentioned above, a probation revocation based on a new criminal charge requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a new crime. A technical violation, however, only requires the judge to find that there is a "preponderance of evidence" that you committed the technical violation(s). Essentially, this means that proof that you "probably" violated your probation is enough to revoke you.
A criminal defense attorney will try to stop your revocation entirely if that is possible. Naturally, if the technical violations can be disproved, then the court cannot revoke probation. However, it is often skilled negotiation before there is even a hearing on the issue that can produce good results for you. Perhaps the probation officer will accept another resolution in place of following through with the revocation hearing. It may also be that there has been a breakdown in the relationship between you and the probation officer, and skilled representation will be enough to heal the damage.
Should your probation be revoked, you must go through sentencing again. The judge has the authority to impose the full penalty for the original charge for which you were on probation. In some case where the proof of your probation violation is strong, it may be in your best interest for your attorney to negotiate an agreement with the prosecutor, rather than go through with a hearing that you are certain to lose. It may be that the district attorney will agree to recommend that your probation be revoked and reinstated for a new term, rather than that you be sent to jail or prison.