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The following is for information purposes only


What Is Probation?

Probation is a criminal sentence served under the supervision of a corrections officer as opposed to serving time in jail. The officer supervises the offender for a set amount of time, determined by the judge assigned to the case.

Probation is for nonviolent crimes or first-time misdemeanors. Those in jail can have an earlier release and serve the remainder of their sentence under probation.

Whether or not the criminal offender has proven to have changed behavior since their original sentencing dictates the granting of probation.

How is Probation Granted?

Probation involves several parties.

  • Court: the judge determines the potential conditions of probation. They set the rules such as where the offender can live, what activities they can engage in, and how long the offender must follow the probation.
  • Probationer: the person on probation is known as the "offender" or "probationer".
  • Probation officer: agents of the state or federal government assigned to supervise or investigate probationers. These individuals report directly to the courts.

What are the Conditions of Probation?

A specific set of rules apply to a criminal offender's probation, called supervised release conditions. These conditions include the following:

  • The offender must not commit a crime while on probation
  • The offender must attend a work rehabilitation program
  • If necessary, the offender will attend a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program
  • The offender will submit a DNA sample if requested
  • Court orders must be adhered to
  • In certain instances, the offender will live in a particular geographic location
  • The offender must comply with any court orders
  • If necessary, the offender will provide monetary support to dependents
  • The offender must obtain lucrative employment
  • The offender will not make contact with other criminal offenders
  • The conditions of probation vary with each state

What are the Different Types of Probation?

Authorities grant five different types of probation to an offender. A judge determines which type is appropriate for the crime, and the offender must follow the requirements and any additional conditions accordingly.

The five types of probation are:

1. Supervised:

Supervised probation requires offenders to check in with their probation officer at pre-arranged times. Offenders can do supervised probation in person or over the phone. Check-ins may be required monthly or weekly, depending on the offender's history.

Certain restrictions include curfews and avoiding other known offenders. If the offender commits any crime while on supervised probation, authorities will revoke privileges.

2. Unsupervised:

There is no probation officer assigned to the offender. Instead, the offender is required to check in with a judge periodically.

Officers grant this probation to minors who have committed minor offenses. Additional requirements for unsupervised probation include attending counseling and community service.

3. Community Control:

Through community control probation, the offender lives within the community but is under strict supervision, making it more intense than supervised probation.

Offenders given community control must wear global positioning (GPS) devices around their ankles to be monitored by a probation officer.

Community control probation is for offenders who have committed more dangerous crimes, such as sex offenders or crimes of violent nature.

4. Shock:

Offenders who have spent a short amount of time in a correctional facility have the option to receive shock probation.

The concept behind shock probation is that the individual is frightened during their time spent in lockup and more likely to comply with probation requirements. However, this type of probation is extremely rare.

5. Crime-Specific:

Several communities adopt the institution of crime-specific probation programs. These programs have a different set of requirements according to the crime.

For example, offenders who have committed a drug-related crime must participate in a drug-specific program involving education, counseling, and random drug testing.

Programs for sex offenders will require the individual to be placed on a registry or reside in restricted areas.

What is a Probation Violation?

Probation violations result in an array of consequences for the offender. A probationer will get off with a warning if the offense is minor.

However, for serious violations, the probation officer will report the offender to the courts, which results in a hearing to determine the proper punishment.

Penalties for violating probation include:

  • Fines
  • Community service
  • Extended probation period
  • Stricter probation terms
  • Imprisonment

If a probation violation occurs, it is the duty of the judge or probation officer to determine the appropriate course of action and educate the offender on the severity of these violations.

What are the Costs of Probation?

The offender is required to pay any financial penalties associated with their probation. In addition to court costs, offenders pay restitution if any damage occurred when they committed the crime.

An offender will be required to pay for any monitoring devices, drug tests, and monetary support to dependents when applicable. These fees cost upwards of thousands of dollars, yet it's a better alternative to time served. 

What are the Disadvantages of Probation?

If the offender violates their probation, the penalties or punishment far outweigh the original prison sentence. Probation is a privilege, and offenders are worse off if they take advantage of it.

For sex offenders, probation requires submitting their name to a registry, which makes their name and addresses public information. This knowledge results in limited job opportunities, and guilt and shame they will live with indefinitely in their community.

What are the Benefits of Probation?

Probation provides offenders with the opportunity to avoid incarceration or potentially shorten the time served. This allows offenders to continue to work and see their families.

Probation saves the state and federal government money because probation is far cheaper than incarceration. Probation allows individuals to continue living as productive members of society. Particular criminal convictions do not result in a loss of freedom. Penalties for violating parole are severe, so offenders need to understand the requirements fully.

Offenders who cooperate to their fullest extent and do not receive any violations will regain their freedom and resume a normal life.