U.S. Probation FAQ

By WORLDLawDirect  [January 30th, 2011]

Information Concerning Your Probation

Procedures vary somewhat among courts and from state to state–these general comments are for your basic information only.

The Court may impose jail time, but suspend your incarceration and place you on probation. It is important that you fully comply with each of the terms of your probation so that you will not have to serve the time in jail. Your freedom depends on your full compliance with all of the terms and conditions of your probation. The following information is offered to answer several of the more commonly asked questions regarding probation.

What is Court Probation? What is Good Behavior Probation?

Court Probation is the same as Good Behavior Probation. When the Court places you on probation, it must decide whether circumstances require your probation to be supervised by a probation case manager. If the Court feels that direct supervision is not necessary, it will place you on "Court" or "Good Behavior" probation. As a result, you will not be required to pay for probation supervision or to report regularly to a probation case manager.

Probation is an opportunity for you to show the Court that you are responsible enough to function without the need for the structure provided by jail. The ability to organize your life and prioritize the demands on your time and resources by complying with the conditions of probation shows the Court that you do not need the supervision of jail. Failing to comply with the conditions of probation will indicate to the Court that you need either supervised probation or jail.

What do I have to do while on probation?

You must fully comply with each of the terms of your probation in order to avoid serving your jail commitment. Each of the terms of your probation will be announced in Court at the time of your sentencing. In addition, each of the terms is written on the sentencing form you received along with this document. Any changes to your probation must be made in writing or in Court.

While on probation, you must notify the Court of any change of address within 48 hours.

It is in your best interests to keep the Court informed of your current address so that you receive notices and information from the Court on a timely basis.

What do I do if I cannot comply with one or more of the terms of my probation?

To reduce the risk that your probation will be revoked, you must contact the Court immediately if you have reason to believe that you will be unable to comply with any term of your probation. A hearing will be scheduled so that you can explain your situation to the Court and to see if there are alternatives to the imposition of your jail term.

The Court will work with you if you:

  • are honest. It is in your best interests to know the limitations of your time and finances. Make realistic promises on what you can or cannot do. Do not make promises you cannot keep;
  • communicate with the Court. You should be in contact with the Court if you suspect that you will be unable to comply with any term of your probation. You should contact the Court before the due date or deadline for you to complete a term of probation has expired. In other words, let the Court know if you are having problems meeting a deadline before the deadline passes. If you wait until an Order to Show Cause Hearing is scheduled or a warrant is issued, you hurt your chances that an extension or alternative will be granted.

Will I go to jail if I can’t make a fine payment?

The Court does not put people in jail simply because they do not have any money. However, you should make the Court aware that you are having financial problems before you miss a payment. If you are in contact before your due date, the Court may allow you more time to pay, lower your payment or offer an alternative to paying your fine. If you wait until a warrant is issued, it is more likely that jail will be imposed.

Why do I have to go to counseling?

You may be ordered to obtain an evaluation by a licensed mental health agency as a term of your probation. The Court may refer you to a specific educational workshop in lieu of an evaluation. You must contact the agency within 24 hours to schedule your evaluation or workshop. The goal of this term of probation is to help you make better choices to avoid making mistakes which result in further violations of law.

If you were ordered to obtain an evaluation from a counseling agency, you are also required to attend, participate in and complete any counseling or therapy deemed necessary as a result of your evaluation. You must complete your evaluation by the date ordered by the Court. You must enter into any recommended counseling, treatment or educational workshop at agency’s the next available opportunity.

If you disagree with the recommendation of the agency, you may ask the Court to refer you to another agency to complete the recommended counseling, treatment or educational workshop. You may also ask the Court to allow you to be re-evaluated by another Court-approved agency at your cost. You must contact the Court to schedule a hearing to ask permission to change the treating agency or to be re-evaluated.

What is Home Detention?

If the Court orders that you be placed on Home Detention in lieu of jail, You will be allowed to remain at home instead of being incarcerated in jail. However, you are not allowed to leave your home except as permitted by the Court or your probation case manager. Your activities will be monitored and a computer with your individual voice print will randomly call you at home to verify that you are in compliance with your probation. Your probation case manager will explain the verification procedure to you. It is important that you follow the procedure to insure that you receive credit for compliance with this term of probation.

Home Detention is imposed as a last resort in lieu of jail. Violation of this term of probation without a very good reason will generally result in the revocation of your probation and imposition of your jail term.

What is Supervised Probation?

If the Court orders that your probation be supervised, you will be referred to a probation agency. You must contact the probation agency within 24 hours. You will be required to pay for probation supervision. You will be required to meet with your probation case manager on a regular basis to report your progress in complying with the terms of your probation. You will be required to comply with the terms and conditions of your probation agreement.

What do I do if I get a Notice for an Order to Show Cause Hearing?

The most important thing to do is to show up for Court. Even if you haven’t fully complied with all of the terms of your probation and you didn’t see the judge before a deadline passed, it is better to appear as ordered and explain why you didn’t comply. If you fail to appear, a warrant for your arrest will be issued and it is much more likely that you will have your jail term imposed.

How do I get off Probation?

There are three ways to get off probation. First, the simplest and best way is to comply with each of the terms of your probation. So long as you do everything you are required to do, you will not have to serve your jail term. Second, under extraordinary circumstances, the Court may decide to terminate your probation early. If you think your circumstances warrant early termination, contact the Court and schedule a hearing. The third way to get off probation is to violate and have your jail term imposed.

If you have any other questions, contact the Court or your probation case manager.

Standard Terms of Probation

In addition to any special terms of probation, every individual who is placed on probation in lieu of serving their jail term is required:

  • to notify the Court of any change of address within 48 hours;
  • to notify the Court of any change in employment within five days;
  • to notify the Court prior to leaving the State for any length of time;
  • to commit no further violations of law;
  • not to consume, inhale, inject or otherwise use any non-prescribed controlled substance;
  • not to abuse drugs or alcohol;
  • to fully comply with each of the terms listed on the Judgement, Sentence and Order form provided herewith;
  • to appear for reviews and hearings as ordered; and
  • submit fine payments as agreed.

See also...

Criminal Law, Arrests, Traffic Tickets

Attorneys, Courts, Litigation