Understanding Probation: How It Works and Its Effectiveness

Probation is basically the suspension of jail sentences in a manner than gives the convicted person the opportunity to remain in his/her community. Probation requires such individuals to follow conditions that will be described by the court. He/she will also be supervised by a probation officer. Common probationary conditions include taking part in community service, regular meetings with the probation officer, avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol and drug use, and making court appearances when required.

The probation period imposed on an individual is determined by the laws of the state in which he/she resides, and the offence committed. Generally, probation lasts between one and three years. Nonetheless, it can be longer in special circumstances especially when the offender is convicted of more serious crimes such as sex or drug offences. Probation can also exist immediately after someone is bailed out of jail, especially if they are a repeat offender. Anyone who utilizes a bail bonds company or service can be put on probation at any time.

Terms of Probation

Apart from reporting to your probation officer and making court appearances as requested, you are also supposed to adhere to a number of probationary terms and conditions that will be determined by the court. These include paying restitution or fines to your victims, avoiding certain places and people, not travelling outside the state without seeking permission from your probation officer, obeying all state and federal rules regardless of how trivial they might be, and agreeing to random alcohol and drug tests.

Generally, the conditions that you will be required to adhered to will be dependent on the criminal violation that you were charged with. For instance, you may be required to undergo drug tests if you were charged on a drug-related offense.

Violation of Probation and Revocation Hearing

Probation violations mainly occur when one breaks any of the conditions and rules that pertain to his/her probation order before the elapse of the stipulated probation period. When it is discovered that there has been a violation, your probation officer will either give you a warning or ask you to attend a violation hearing. If it is ultimately established that you violated the terms and conditions set forth in your probation order, you risk facing additional probation terms, jail term, a revoked probation, or heavy fines.
During your revocation hearing, the prosecutor must prove that you violated a condition or a term of the probation order by use of a preponderance of the evidence benchmark. Like any other criminal proceeding, it is your right to be informed about new charges that have been brought against you. If your probation is revoked by the judge, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are staring at a jail term.

There are numerous options available to the judge including extending the probation period or imposing additional fines. If you are sentenced to a short jail term, you can request for a bail hearing that allows you to be free until your case is determined. You can also appeal a violation conviction at a higher court if you think that the lower court erred.