Are you currently serving probation on a felony Department of Corrections (DOC) sentence in the State of Montana? If you violate a term of your probation or conditions of release you could be subjected to a DOC Disciplinary Hearing.
What can lead to a DOC disciplinary hearing?
In reality, anything can lead to the DOC requesting a hearing and potentially punishing you.
Legally, you must have violated either a term of your sentencing conditions or a rule of probation. Although the rules of probation are written out, the DOC can “interpret” rules to mean just about anything. If they want to call you in for a hearing because of something you did — they can and will. This can be anything from contact with people they don’t want you having contact with, to being late to an appointment. The list is long, but the real key is if they can actually prove at a hearing what they are alleging and if your conduct is an actual violation.
Common reasons for a DOC hearing
- You miss or are late for testing. Rules of probation almost always include testing for alcohol and drugs. If you are late at all or miss a test, this is a common way to have a hearing against you.
- Unlawful contact. If you text, email, or call people you are not supposed to have contact with, or you cause someone you know to do this on your behalf, it is a violation and common reason for a hearing.
- Unapproved travel or accounts. The DOC must approve any travel outside your approved area as well as the opening of financial accounts and medical appointments. Traveling without pre-approval is a common reason for a hearing.
- General rule-breaking. There will be a long list of rules to follow, and it is common to not realize all of them. If you break them the slightest bit, you will likely cause a hearing to happen.
At the hearing, a DOC hearing officer will determine:
- Whether there was substantial evidence to support the allegation
- What sanction is appropriate for the violation
What are the rules for a DOC hearing?
Unfortunately, such a hearing is really an administrative issue. So, unlike a court of law, there are very few rules, and the standard of proof is extremely low. In other words, it doesn’t take much for the government to “win” such a hearing.
What can happen?
The hearing officer will rule and the decision can vary widely. You may even be sent to a Montana State Prison for part or all of your remaining sentence.
There are several options that can happen as a result of a disciplinary hearing. Here are a few common ones:
- Nothing – low-level discipline will just allow you to continue your sentence with a warning.
- Jail time – The most common result, is a few extra days in jail, then back out onto probation.
- Change in conditions – more strict probation conditions can occur.
- Full revocation to the court – The case can move to the sentencing court for revocation of the criminal sentence
In the best-case scenario, you will learn a valuable lesson and be able to continue with your probation and stay out of prison.
Do you need an attorney for a DOC disciplinary hearing in Montana?
If you’re asking this question you probably already know the answer.
An attorney who is familiar with this process can make sure your rights are protected.
For example, did you know that before any such hearing takes place you are required to be given:
- 48 hours notice
- Chance to arrange witnesses to testify on your behalf
- Opportunity to have legal counsel present to observe the hearing along with other rights.
Returning to jail IS NOT inevitable
Perhaps most importantly, if the hearing officer recommended for revocation, you must be given the least restrictive placement that is appropriate for your case.
In other words, the DOC must consider the facts of your life and case when determining whether treatment, confinement, or community placement is most appropriate.
The default position should absolutely not be sending you back to jail/prison.
Additionally, you have the right to appeal the hearing and final decisions concerning your placement. Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer will ensure your rights are protected and that you do no become a victim of the system.
Get help with your DOC disciplinary hearing
If you are concerned about your relationship with the DOC or have been given notice of a recent violation, it may be time to hire an experienced legal team to protect your rights and freedom.
Contact the Judnich Law Office today for a FREE and confidential consultation.
Marty is a former criminal prosecutor in the Cascade County Attorney’s Office and now uses that experience to defend those accused of crimes. A University of Montana School of Law graduate, Marty focuses his practice on personal injury and criminal defense and is a premier DUI defense attorney. He is also well versed in the insurance claims industry and has negotiated significant settlements with nearly every major insurance company.