Understanding Georgia Probation Violations:
No. Under O.C.G.A. § 42-8-34, before a Georgia judge can revoke a person's probation for failure to pay money, the court must make certain findings that the failure to pay is based on willful non-payment as opposed to the inability to pay.
If you are facing a probation revocation based on a failure to pay a fine, restitution, or probation fees, the court will put you on the calendar for a hearing. At this hearing, you will have the opportunity to explain to the judge the reasons for the failure to pay.
At these hearings, the distinction between a willful non-payment as opposed to the inability to pay is crucial. For example, in Fong v. State, 149 Ga. App. 456, 254 S.E.2d 460 (1979), the judge sentenced the defendant to pay restitution as one of the probation conditions. The defendant failed to pay this restitution, yet he was able to pay other bills, operate his business, and pay his business expenses. Id. The Georgia Court of Appeals held that this could serve as the basis of the defendant's probation revocation. Id.
If you failed to make a payment because of an inability to pay you will want to bring the court proof, such as filing for unemployment or bills for basic living expenses. You should bring any and all documents that will show the court that you are financially complying with your probation terms to the best of your ability.
If the judge finds that your failure to pay was because of an inability to pay, he or she cannot revoke your probation. Instead, the judge may grant a continuance, which would give you time to pay the money that you owe. Alternatively, in Georgia, under O.C.G.A. § 42-8-34(g), a judge can modify or change the conditions of your probation, as long as the change or modification does not increase your sentence. Many judges will substitute additional community service in exchange for the fine payment.
When considering probation, it is important that you be honest with yourself about your ability to pay. Probation fees, restitution, the time spent away from work when doing community service, and court-ordered classes or tests quickly add up. One of the benefits of having an experienced attorney is that the terms of probation can be negotiated before they become a problem.
Our Georgia Traffic Ticket Lawyers and Atlanta Traffic Ticket Lawyers are skilled negotiators. Our office helps people with their traffic tickets throughout Georgia and makes sure to negotiate a probation sentence that the client is comfortable with. If you are considering pleading guilty to a charge, and that plea would involve probation, speak to an experienced Atlanta Traffic Ticket Lawyer today.