How Does Probation Work?

Getting in trouble with the law is not wise, but if yours is a small offense and you are not a threat to society, you could get probation instead of prison.

You might have found yourself recently on the wrong side of the law and that's bad, but the good news is, if you're a first time offender, if you've committed a minor crime, or if for some unknown reason, the court takes pity on you, you could be given probation, rather than jail or prison time. With overcrowding in America's prisons becoming a larger issue every day, the courts make an attempt at rehabilitation for some criminals who aren't deemed a threat to society, by placing them on probation. Normally the judge will sentence you to a certain amount of time in prison, like 2 years, then suspend this sentence in favor of probation. The probation period could be anywhere from 6 months to 5 years, or more, in certain cases. There are a couple of different types of probation. One is called supervised probation, and if you're sentenced to this type of punishment, you will be required to first pay all fines and court costs for your offense, then report weekly to a probation officer who will make a report on certain stipulations, issued by the judge.

One of these requirements is usually that the accused stay out of further trouble and hold down a regular job. You will report to your probation officer facts like where you're working, what hours you work and the phone number, in case the officer wants to verify your story. You also may be required to work at some type of community service. Normally this is issued in a certain amount of hours, required to be completed by you at whatever facility or location that they assign. This could be lawn maintenance at the court house, helping out in a local nursing home, or helping with the Special Olympics in your community. Your probation officer will check to make sure you are putting in these hours, which have to be completed before you can be released from probation.



If the offense was drug or alcohol related, you might also be required to take weekly or monthly drug or alcohol tests, for which you will pay the fees. In addition, the probation officer usually charges a weekly fee for his or her services. If any of the rules, stipulated by the judge or the probation officer, are broken by you, or any of the monies left unpaid, you will be sentenced to the amount of time the judge originally gave you. Even if you get in a fistfight, that's reason enough to revoke your probation. It is usually up to the probation officer to recommend to the judge the revocation of your probation, if you've failed to report, lied to the officer, or it's discovered that you've been drinking or using drugs of any kind. Often, the accused isn't told that the probation has been revoked, he is just picked up, at home or at work, by a law officer and taken to jail to await transportation to prison for the required amount of time. Some more severe probation rules can restrict you to your home and work only, and requires you to wear an ankle bracelet that monitors your every move. If you're caught leaving your home during home hours, or you're caught leaving work during work hours, a signal is sent to your probation officer who then has the authority to have you immediately arrested.

Another type of probation is unsupervised, meaning you won't have to report to a probation officer, but certain other stipulation still exist. You will still be required to pay court fees, fines and probation costs, but you aren't required to report anything. You will probably be required to do community service hours, too. Instead, if you are arrested for anything while you're on unsupervised probation, your probation will be revoked and you will be sent to the amount of time which was originally suspended by the judge. Again, you will not be informed of the revocation of your probation, and your probation time could already be up completely, but you can still be arrested for failure to follow through with the original terms of your probation. Stay on the right side of the law, but if you ever do slip up, hope for probation, then follow the rules strictly.

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