Probation is a type of sentence that is available in lieu of jail time. It is usually made available to first time, non-violent offenders, and permits the offenders to remain living within their community and continue their daily functions. These offenders are supervised by probation officers and must carry out specific conditions set by the court. If the conditions are not followed, the offender may be sent to prison for violating their probation.

Probation is typically used in conjunction with "parole". Parole is similar to probation but deals with supervision terms a person must adhere to when they are conditionally released from jail or prison. Parole is usually approved prior to a person’s sentence period is completed. Both probation and parole are issued according to a judge’s discretion.

What Are Some Common Types of Probation?

Types of probation frequently ordered by a judge are the following:

  • Unsupervised Probation: The offender is not under the direct supervision of a probation officer. However, they are required to complete conditions of orders set by the court. Unsupervised probation is generally permitted for less serious crimes, such as petty theft. It is also referred to as "informal probation".
  • Supervised Probation: The offender is required to periodically check in with their probation officer, in addition to following the conditions set by the court. Check-in appointments may range from weekly visits to monthly telephone calls. Offenders may also be required to undertake alcohol and/or drug treatments and counseling and community service.
  • Community Control: This is a more involved supervision scheme wherein the person’s activities and whereabouts are constantly monitored. It typically takes place through house arrest and through use of an ankle monitoring device. Under house arrest, an offender is not permitted to leave their home. An ankle monitoring device is used in conjunction with house arrest as it provides GPS information regarding the offenders location.
  • Shock Probation: Involves the judge sentencing a maximum jail or prison sentence. After a short period of jail time, the judge releases the offender in a standard probation program. The theory is that that the short term spent in jail will "shock" the offender into complying with probation requirements.
  • Crime-specific Types: More serious offenses, such as drug offenses may require that the offender take additional steps like undergoing counseling and rehabilitation. Sex offenses require an offender to register on a sex offender registry in the area where the offender lives. Additionally, computer management of a sex offender may be implemented. Computer management occurs when the government installs monitoring software on the offenders computer. This provides information as to the computer searches the offender has undertaken on a daily basis.

Another type of sentencing is known as diversion. Diversion is not technically a probation sentence. Implemented to relieve the courts, probation officers and police officers, it is a treatment program that begins before trial starts. If the offender completes the program successfully, they can often have the case dismissed and their record purged of the offense. Diversion probations may include requirements of education, restitution to victims and community service.

What Are the Consequences of Violating Probation?

Probation is a contractual obligation that the offender must follow conditions set by a court and in exchange are excused from serving time in prison. A violation of these conditions will result in revocation of the offender’s probation.

For example, if the offender fails to attend a meeting with the probation officer, they may be in violation of their probation terms. Other common requirements are that the person maintain steady employment or attend treatment programs.

Violation of probation terms may result in modification of probation terms to more strict conditions. More severe consequences of a probation violation include revocation of probation and reinstatement of the original jail or prison sentence.

Can Violations of Probation Orders Be Appealed?

In some cases, violations of probation orders can be appealed. To determine whether you are eligible for an appeal, check with a criminal attorney if you have violated probation terms.

If you are currently on probation and have personal issues that may present a conflict with the terms of your probation you should contact a criminal attorney. For example, if you are required to move out of your current jurisdiction due to employment, you should notify your probation officer. You may need to file a petition with the court to determine whether you are permitted to change residences.

Should I Contact a Lawyer If I Have Probation Issues?

Probation has the potential to alter a person’s entire lifestyle and life decisions. Issues regarding probation are serious because they may have serious consequences like reinstated jail time or more strict probation terms. Working with a criminal defense lawyer can ensure that your actions are within the bounds of your probation terms. If you have recently been charged with a crime, a lawyer can also determine whether you are eligible for probation.