What is Probation?

Not every conviction means jail time. Sometimes you will receive probation instead of a jail sentence, or a shorter jail sentence that includes probation. While not every criminal offense allows for probation, if you’ve never been convicted before and the offense is not severe, probation is a possibility. It still counts as a conviction on your record, but you may not have to spend time in jail.

Definition of Probation

Probation is a sentence where instead of serving time in jail, the person is allowed to remain in the community. While serving probation, the person’s actions are strictly monitored and must follow the specific terms of probation, including reporting to a probation officer and reporting to specified court dates. Sometimes, an offender will serve a portion of the sentence in jail, and a portion will be set as probation.

Length of Probation

The length of probation differs depending on the offense. Usually probation is a period of one to three years, though in some cases it can be longer.

Terms of Probation

Each person will have specific terms of probation that must be adhered to during the period of probation. These terms may differ depending on the person, but generally terms might be as follows:

  • Report to probation officer.
  • Appear at specified court appearances.
  • Avoid committing crimes.
  • Pay fines.
  • Avoid certain people and places.
  • No out-of-state travel without permission.
  • Obey all laws.
  • Refrain from drug use and excessive drinking.
  • Submit to testing for drugs and alcohol.
  • Attend drug/alcohol treatment.
  • Complete community service.

Violation of Probation

Failure to comply with probation terms may result in revocation of probation and time in jail. Each time a violation is discovered, your probation officer has the responsibility to determine if you should receive a warning or if you need to attend a probation violation hearing. The judge will review the information and determine if a probation violation has occurred, and if so, will determine if you will have additional probation terms added, more fines, revoked probation or jail time.

Revocation of Probation

A revocation of probation does not necessarily mean serving jail time. The judge may choose to increase your probation or add additional probation terms like counseling or drug/alcohol treatment. However, the judge can also choose to have you submit to the time allotted by the original sentence, or serve just a short time in jail.

Probation Vs. Parole

Probation and parole are similar and can be confused. Probation is given at the time of sentencing and can be served instead of any jail time or after a period of jail time. Parole is something that is given after an offender serves some time in jail and is established by the parole board. Sometimes, after serving a portion of a sentence, those that have shown “good behavior” may go before a parole board and receive parole if they meet the requirements. Both those serving probation and parole have to meet the terms of their respective probation or parole. Often those terms are very similar. Parolee’s must meet with their parole officer and meet the terms of their parole, while those on probation must meet with their probation officer and meet the terms of their probation.

Criminal Defense Attorney

While it is preferable not to have a conviction on your record, sometimes the evidence will prove a conviction. When that happens, probation is better than time in jail. Criminal defense attorneys can provide helpful guidance for how the case would be best handled. If you’ve been charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Dennis F. Dwyer is a criminal defense attorney with a broad range of experience and can help you determine the best defense possible. Call his office today to discuss your charges.

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