How Does Probation Work?

You have likely heard about or met someone on probation or just completed their probation. Although they tried to explain to you what it was, you might not have got the hang of it. So, what is probation? Probation is a sentencing alternative to incarceration. This means that rather than sending the person to prison after they have been convicted, they can be given probation. Thus, they can go back to the community, but they will live under the strict supervision of a state or federal corrections officer known as a probation officer. 

Insights Into Sentencing Alternatives to Jail

In the United States, judges have the discretion to choose multiple sentencing options. These sentencing options include fines, victim compensation (restitution), probation, diversion, incarceration, probation, community service, or any combination. 

How Does Probation Work

The judge can give probation for both misdemeanor and felony charges. In felony cases, it can be given as after a period of incarceration. In most felony cases, the judge typically sentences the defendant to jail but commutes their sentence to probation. Let’s say you were sentenced to six months in prison for a misdemeanor; the judge can commute the sentence to one year of probation. In the case of felonies, the judge usually hands out a longer sentence but commutes part of it to be served as probation. 

During their probation period, the defendant is allowed to keep living in the community as long as they adhere to the conditions of their release on probation. If the defendant completes their probation without violating the terms of their probation, they are free. If the probationer violates the conditions of their probation, the judge can grant the order to have them taken to prison to serve their initial sentence. 

Conditions of Probation

It’s up to the judge to decide the terms of probation that the defendant will be required to adhere to. Typically, these terms are related to the rehabilitation of the probationer. Some standard conditions are:

  • Obey all laws
  • Report as instructed to the probation officer
  • Pay all court-ordered fees, fines, and restitution
  • Maintain vocational training, school, or work
  • Do not possess or use any illegal weapons or drugs

The conditions that are at the judge’s discretion are:

  • Submit to warrantless searches with no probable causes, also known as a search condition
  • Don’t travel outside the state or county with permission
  • Stay away from certain people or places; in most cases, the victims or accomplices
  • Complete community classes, which can be about parenting, anger management, or theft awareness
  • Complete community services
  • Submit to regular drug and alcohol testing
  • Submit a DNA sample
  • Submit to GPS monitoring
  • Complete substance abuse counseling or treatment

Some defendants find their conditions of probation too hard and opt to serve their jail sentence outright. 

Do You Need a Bail Bond in Texas? 

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