Probation & Parole Violation


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 prison.

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 report. – 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.

Pennsylvania Probation and Parole Violation Defense

probation violations No one wants to go to jail. Unfortunately, if a Judge finds that a person has violated their probation or parole, that is exactly where they go. If you or someone you love faces jail time, you need a zealous lawyer to defend you. At the Law Offices of V. Erik Petersen, I fight hard to keep my clients out of jail. Contact the Law Offices of V. Erik Petersen for a free consultation with a qualified criminal defense attorney.

What is a Gagnon Hearing?

I get asked this question all the time. The name of the hearing comes from a United States Supreme Court case in 1973 known as Gagnon v. Scarpelli. The United States Supreme Court ruled that an individual has a right to a hearing before his/her probation can be violated. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that an individual cannot be detained for allegedly violating probation. It simply means that once the probation department alleges a violation has occurred a hearing must be conducted within a reasonable period of time and if the violation is proven then the individual can be punished for the violation.

Probation Violation Laws

People get accused of violating their probation and parole for many reasons. I handle cases that involve

  • New criminal arrests
  • Failure to pay fines and costs
  • Failure to pay restitution on a theft or property damage case
  • Failure to notify the probation officer of a change of address, employment, or a new arrest
  • Absconding from supervision
  • Failure to attend a meeting with their probation/parole officer
  • Failure to complete court-ordered treatment
  • Testing positive for drug use

Help for a Probation Violation PA

If you know that you are about to be detained, or if a loved one is already detained, please contact me immediately so I can begin the process of resolving the situation as quickly as possible. I will tenaciously negotiate with the probation department, the District Attorney’s Office and/or the Judge to keep you out of jail, or to release your loved one if they are already there. Negotiating my client’s freedom is the most important thing I can do. If my client does go to jail, he has a right to a speedy violation hearing. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the hearing to take place, I take action. I ensure that the violation hearing gets scheduled as soon as possible so my client does not sit in jail needlessly. If there are any overdue fines or court costs, I encourage my client or their family to pay them if at all possible. If witnesses are needed, I make every effort to subpoena them or make sure they appear at the hearing. The bottom line is that retaining my client’s freedom is my highest priority. If you or someone you love faces charges of probation violation, contact a Montgomery County, PA criminal defense attorney for a free consultation.