How Probation Works

Once you are found guilty, or plead guilty, to a criminal offense, the judge may place you on probation instead of sentencing you to jail. Probation is an alternative form of sentencing which allows you to be released into the community rather than serving time in a jail. Soon after you plead, you will meet with a probation officer who will ask you to sign an Order of Probation, which sets out the rules and requirements. Included in these are that you can't be re-arrested on new charges, must be employed, make contact with your probation officer as stated in the Order of Probation, and take random drug tests.

If even one of the rules is broken once, consequences can be serious, problematic and expensive. Once your probation officer discovers a probation violation, he or she will prepare a report and present it to a judge who will review it and possibly sign a warrant which will be served by law enforcement requiring you to turn yourself into jail.

It is of the utmost importance that you contact your attorney as soon as possible before turning yourself in. One reason is that a judge is not required to set a bond for a probation violation. You have no constitutional right to a bail bond on a probation violation. Therefore, the strategy would be to obtain a bail bond at a decreased amount because you turned yourself in.

A probation-violation hearing will be set at which you will have a chance to present your reasons for violating the terms of your probation and discuss the possible outcomes with your probation officer and an assistant district attorney. The possible outcomes include:

  • The probation violation is dismissed.
  • You are ordered to have your probation re-instated.
  • You are ordered to serve jail time and then be re-instated to probation.
  • Additional conditions are added to the Order of Probation.
  • Your probation is changed to intensive probation at a community corrections facility.
  • Your probation is revoked, and you are ordered to serve the entire sentence in jail.

Receiving a probation violation is serious business. Treat it as such. It is not to be ignored. The consequences could be life-changing.