Probation is an option available to judges in state, federal and local courts when imposing a sentence on someone who has been convicted of committing a crime. Instead of ordering that the person be confined to a jail or prison, a judge could allow the person to remain in the community under the supervision of a probation officer. A person sentenced to probation agrees to abide by certain conditions, such as agreeing to obey the criminal laws and not commit more crimes or attend substance abuse counseling. Failing to obey those conditions could result in a probation officer filing a probation violation and asking that additional penalties be imposed on the violator.
Probation is a community sentencing option a judge might impose on someone convicted of committing a violation of the criminal laws. As a general rule, probation is appropriate in cases in which the offender does not have a prior criminal record and is being sentenced for a nonviolent criminal offense where confinement to prison or to jail would not be appropriate.
The court imposing probation as a sentence sets conditions the individual must comply with during the period of supervision. Common conditions of probation include the following:
If a person under probation supervision violates any of the conditions of probation, the probation officer has the ability to take the individual into custody for a probation violation. Proof of a violation of probation allows a judge the option to revoke probation and impose a different penalty, including incarceration, or continuing the person on probation with the same or additional conditions.
The purpose of probation supervision is to help individuals who have committed crimes to obtain gainful employment and avoid the bad behaviors that got them in trouble in the first place. Probation officers must also protect the community by ensuring the people they supervise obey the rules and conditions of their sentence. When they do not, a probation officer can initiate a probation violation proceeding.
There are many circumstances under which a violation of probation may occur, including the following violations listed below.
The ability to travel outside of the jurisdiction of the probation office is restricted for someone on probation. For example, leaving the county without the written consent of a probation officer could result in a violation of probation. Probationers usually must visit with their probation officer at least once a week. The officer has the discretion to extend the time between visits when warranted by the good conduct of the probationer.
It is usually left to the discretion of the probation officer to decide how to handle a violation. Minor violations, such as missing an appointment with the probation officer, might result in a warning to the offender. More serious violations, such as commission of a crime or failing a drug test, could result in the arrest of the probationer on a probation violation.
If a probation officer files a petition alleging a violation of probation, the individual accused in it must appear in court to answer the charge or risk having an arrest warrant issued. The person can admit to the violation or deny it and force the prosecution to present evidence at a court hearing to prove it occurred.
Once the probation violation is admitted or proven, the judge has several options available to impose at sentencing, including the reasons below.
Probation violations become part of a person’s criminal record. Anyone conducting a background search, including prospective employers, is able to see the original conviction and how the person failed to obey the conditions of the sentence.
A probation violation search is a good way for someone on probation to avoid being caught off guard. Learning about a violation filed by a probation officer or an outstanding arrest warrant gives the probationer an opportunity to speak with the officer and perhaps resolve the matter without going to court. Some states allow public access to some probation records through an online search.
There are different types of probation. Some people may have a split sentence wherein they are first on probation and finish up their sentence incarcerated. Active supervision refers to those who are required to regularly report to their probation officer by telephone, mail or in person. Inactive supervision pertains to those who are excluded from regularly reporting. In any case, failure to follow the conditions of probation may result in incarceration.
During sentencing, a judge may decide to put someone on probation instead of incarceration. The defendant is released into the community under conditions of the probation. The probation officer has many tasks assigned to him or her. Information pursuant to the conditions of the probation are conveyed to the judge who ultimately decides whether the defendant is incarcerated. At times, the court may change the conditions of the probation. Probation officers enforce the conditions of probation set forth by the court. A probation officer needs probable cause to show that a defendant has violated the terms of their probation.
Low-risk offenders and first-time offenders may receive probation. There are some statutes that may determine the limits of probation; however, it is also up to the judge’s discretion whether a defendant is placed on probation. Probation is used to rehabilitate the defendant, to protect victims’ rights and to protect society from any criminal conduct. A condition of probation may be that the defendant may not leave outside the county boundaries. Some defendants may not go outside of a 50-mile radius. They may need to do frequent drug or alcohol tests. Once a defendant has met all the requirements of probation, they resume full freedom in society.