Probation Violations


When a person who is on county probation or parole is accused of violating that supervision, the result is a probation violation hearing. These hearings are called VOP Hearings (Violation of Probation/Parole) or Gagnon Hearings (named after a PS Supreme Court case which established a defendant’s basic rights when accused of a probation violation). People accused of violating supervision in Pennsylvania have an absolute right to the following hearings:

Gagnon 1 Hearing: This is a probable cause hearing during which the District Attorney’s Office must establish that the person “probably” violated the terms of supervision. When there is a new criminal charge, the Preliminary Hearing on the new charge may satisfy the requirement for a Gagnon 1 Hearing.

Gagnon 2 Hearing: This is a probation/ parole violation “trial” where the District Attorney’s Office must prove by a preponderance of the evidence (more like than not) that the person violated terms of supervision. The person has an absolute right to produce evidence and argue that he did not violate his supervision.

Gagnon Sentencing Hearing: A person who is found by the judge to have violated his supervision following a Gagnon 2 Hearing will proceed to a Gagnon Sentencing Hearing. The Gagnon Sentencing may take place immediately after the Gagnon 2 Hearing or at some later date.

When a person is accused of violating probation and/or has a Gagnon Hearing upcoming, it is critically important to have the help of an experienced attorney. Please feel free to contact the Montgomery County, PA Law Office of Erik Petersen by clicking here to discuss your case.

Waiting for a Gagnon Hearing

A major problem with Gagnon proceedings (from the perspective of the defendant) is that in most cases the probation officer will lock up the alleged probation violator immediately. The person then sits in jail until a Gagnon Hearing is scheduled. There is no right to bail in a violation of probation situation.

One way an experienced probation violation attorney can assist a client is to take steps to get a Gagnon Hearing scheduled as soon as possible. Many times people wait in prison for months waiting for a Gagnon Hearing to be scheduled. Without an attorney pushing for a Gagnon Hearing date, the system can seemingly grind to a halt with the person sitting in

Gagnon Penalties

A person accused of violating supervision will be brought back to the original sentencing judge for Gagnon proceedings (unless both the District Attorney and the defendant agree on a different judge). The judge may sentence the person up to the maximum penalty he could
have received on the offense.

For example, suppose a person receives 2 years of probation for a simple assault charge graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree. If that person then violates the terms of his probation he may be sentenced at the Gagnon Hearing to the maximum he could get for a misdemeanor of the first degree — 5 years of incarceration. Obviously a judge may impose a sentence much less than that — judges have great discretion as to how much time to give
a defendant on a Gagnon case. This highlights the importance of being well represented during Gagnon proceedings.

Types of Gagnon Violations

A person may violate supervision by “catching” a new charge — being charged with a new criminal offense — or committing a Technical Violation. A Technical Violation (or a “Tech”) is an alleged violation that does not involve a new charge. Examples of Technical Violations include:

– Submitting a “hot urine”.
– Failing to report to probation as agreed — missing appointments.
– Failing to maintain employment or a suitable residence.
– Absconding — moving without letting the probation officer know and then failing to
– Failing to pay fines and costs.

How a Montgomery County, PA Gagnon Hearing Defense Attorney Lawyer Can Help

Back in the 1990s, I was a prosecutor in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office in the Major Crimes Unit. Since leaving the DA’s Office in 1999, I have been a criminal defense attorney defending clients in federal and state courts. Over the years, I have handled over 100 Gagnon Hearings both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. I am certainly qualified
to represent anyone charged with violating probation or parole.

Please feel free to call my office or email me here to discuss how I can help you through this situation.