Prisoners released from jail on probation are told that they need to "keep the peace" and "be of good behavior." If he or she is arrested while on probation that person would be charged with the new crime but also with a second offense for violating probation. This meant an immediate trip back to prison. An additional term of time to serve would be addressed for the probation violation.
So far nothing has changed... However, in the past, the defendant would stay in prison on the probation violation charges EVEN IF the new charges were dismissed. For example, a defendant on probation for drug charges is arrested for shoplifting. He or she will be charged with shoplifting AND for violating his probation (failing to keep the peace and be of good behavior). If the shoplifting charges were dismissed, the defendant would remain in prison to serve the sentence for violating probation.
For years, defense attorneys and certain lawmakers have argued that when a case is dismissed and a person is shown not to have broken any law, then they should not be in violation of probation. This only makes sense. Unfortunately, for years the State believed that the act of getting arrested and being a suspect in a crime was sufficient to violate probation and be not "of good behavior."
Finally, the State has reversed its view and after several revisions, Governor Carcieri accepts this as a new law. If a person is arrested for charges while on probation but those charges are subsequently dropped, he or she will not be seen as a probation violator.