The Probation Violation: Where Second Chances Fall Apart

In the state of Michigan, one issue that has been on the rise in the field of criminal law is the probation violation. It has been established that when a client is guilty of a crime and the attorney gets obtains a sentence of probation, a major victory has been achieved but that is not where the story ends. The probation department in each jurisdiction handles violations in a very different manner. To learn more about probation violations, we turned to various criminal law experts in the field to provide their insight on the topic.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has developed the top criminal law firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the probation violation (PV), Grabel stated, “The biggest flaw that you have in fighting a PV is the attorney that does not do their homework. When we look at a PV from a broad perspective, we have to look at the history of the defendant. Is this an isolated mistake or do we see a pattern of misconduct? The lawyer needs to have a relationship with the probation department and a thorough understanding of their client. The Probation Department in Lenawee is very different than the one in Jackson, Michigan. Spending the time to understand the issues facing the probation officer in each particular jurisdiction and having an opened dialogue with them can make the difference between freedom and incarceration.”

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is known as a top researcher of criminal legal issues. McManus stated, “What the lawyer needs to understand is that there are 3 phases of the criminal game. There are the prosecutor, the judge, and the probation department. Far too often the lawyer will forget about that third aspect and there are times when a lack of respect for the probation department could destroy the plea that you have so worked hard to obtain. As the attorney, we need to cooperate with the probation department and work with them in the same fashion that we do with the other aspects of the court system.”

Jeremy Tatum is a rising star in the criminal law field in Saginaw, Michigan and has been dealing with the issue of PV’s in his position as a social worker and an attorney in the representation of his clients. Tatum stated, “I feel the biggest mistake that the defendant can make is to not be represented by counsel when facing a PV. The PV, aside from leading to jail and/or prison time is also the quickest way to lose your deferral. If the client had a 7411 or HYTA and commits a PV, there is a lot of trouble looming. A good lawyer can help to facilitate the PV into a minor infraction or a dismissal.”

Scott Grabel added, “People need to remember that probation is not the end of the story but instead presents light at the end of the tunnel. A violation can turn the lights out so it is important that the attorney is proactive from the first day of probation. Our firm demands that a client sends a bi-weekly progress report to our firm so there is a great amount of accountability on both the attorney and the client.”
One thing that needs to be understood is that respect for the probation department can lead to respect towards your client. To disregard the probation department can set your case up for failure and present a loss of liberty for your client. The lawyer that stays one step ahead of the game is the one that will have success at a PV Hearing.

William Amadeo is a Senior Associate at Grabel and Associates and a partner at Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition to his legal duties, Amadeo owns and operates BAT Tutoring in Lansing, Michigan and works as a journalist for “The Chronicle News” and various websites. Amadeo can be reached at

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