Probation revocations occur when someone violates the conditions of a deferred or suspended sentence. The probation officer files a Report of Violation and the prosecutor then files a Petition to Revoke, seeking to take away the defendant’s deferred or suspended sentence to impose a new sentence, such as a commitment to the Department of Corrections or imprisonment in the Montana State Prison.
Probation revocations are difficult to win because the rules of evidence do not apply at the adjudication hearing and sentencing, so hearsay and other generally inadmissible evidence is often allowed in. Further, the State’s burden of proof on a revocation is by the preponderance of evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt as it is prior to conviction. Laws controlling probation revocations have recently changed and revocations now hinge on whether the probation violation is a compliance or noncompliance violation. A compliance violation is a violation of probation that is not (a) a new criminal offense; (b) possession of a firearm in violation of a condition of supervision; (c) behavior by the offender or any person acting at the offender’s direction that could be considered stalking, harassing, or threatening the victim of the offense or a member of the victim’s immediate family or support network; (d) absconding; or (e) failure to enroll in or complete a required sex offender treatment program or a treatment program designed to treat violent offenders.