Criminal Probation: Frequently Asked Questions
During your probation, you will be under the supervision of a probation officer. You will be required to follow their instructions and check in with them either in person or via phone call on a regular basis.
If your defense attorney is advising you to seek probation, here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about how it works.
Commonly Asked Questions About Probation
How long will I be on probation?
The length of your probation will depend on the offense you’ve committed and the laws of the state you are convicted in. Probation typically lasts between one and three years, but can last much longer (including for the rest of your life) for drug-related or sex offenses.
What are the conditions I must follow on probation?
The conditions of your probation will, in part, be determined by the offense you’ve committed. For example, drug-related offenses typically require you to submit to drug testing and attend a rehabilitation program as part of your probation.
Other common probation conditions include:
- Regularly meeting with your probation officer at set times
- Appearing at any scheduled court appearances
- Paying fines or restitution
- Avoiding certain people and places
- Not traveling out of state without the permission of your probation officer
- Obeying all laws, including minor laws such as jaywalking
- Refraining from illegal drug use or excessive alcohol use
- Submitting to drug or alcohol testing
It is important to know and follow all of the conditions of your probation regardless of how difficult or inconvenient they may be. Violating the terms of your probation can have serious consequences.
If you violate the terms of your probation, it will be up to your probation officer to decide what to do. They can decide to give you a warning, or require you to attend a probation violation hearing. During a hearing, a judge will determine if you violated your probation. If you are found to have violated your conditions the punishments include:
- Additional probation conditions
- Revoked probation
- Jail time
If you are required to attend a probation violation hearing, make sure you speak with a criminal defense attorney first.
Can I reduce my probation time with good behavior?
In most states, you are allowed to request an early release from probation. However, it is entirely at a judge’s discretion to grant you an early release. Typically, a deciding judge will require you to have served at least a third of your probation before eligibility for early release.
In addition, a judge may require that all of the conditions of your probation be met. This means rehabilitation classes completed, community service performed, and restitution paid. Also, many states won’t grant early release from probation for certain offenses such as DUI, sex crimes, and jail felonies.
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