Probation is an option in criminal cases in lieu of a jail sentence. While you might be thinking that probation is equivalent to a slap on the wrist, it isn’t a walk in the park, and screwing up while you’re on probation can lead to time in jail. So today, we’re going to explain some of the ins and outs of probation, and we’re going to share some tips for surviving probation.
What Is Probation?
Probation is a period of time during which a criminal offender must refrain from certain activities or follow specific guidelines in lieu of a harsher sentence or as terms of their release from jail. Probation can last anywhere from a couple of months to the maximum probation term of 40 years, and it’s in your best interest to adhere to the guidelines set forth in your probation order during the entire probation duration.
Although probation guidelines will be tailored to the individual, here’s a look at some examples of potential probation conditions.
- Home confinement
- Electronic location monitoring
- Transdermal alcohol or drug monitoring
- Regular or unannounced drug/alcohol testing
- Staying away from bars or establishments that serve alcohol
- Staying a certain distance away from specific individuals
- Regular check-ins with a probation officer
- Mental health or substance abuse counseling
- Community service hours
- Maintain employment
Probation conditions are typically tailored to the individual and their criminal history, so probation guidelines for one individual may be different for others, even if they are charged with the same offense. You are required to follow all guidelines set forth in your probation until it expires, or you will face serious consequences. For example, a judge may order a six month stayed jail sentence with a year of probation, meaning you have to follow probation guidelines for a year, and if you break one of the conditions, you will automatically be sent to jail for six months. Clearly, it’s in your best interest to follow your probation guidelines at all times.
Tips For Staying Out Of Trouble While On Probation
Here are a couple of ways to ensure you don’t run into any trouble while you’re on probation:
1. Get on good terms with your probation officer – Your probation officer is who you’ll check in with and who will oversee your probation, so it’s important that you are on good terms with them. Have a good attitude every time you meet with them, and be courteous and respectful. They have the power to revoke your probation, so if you are on good terms, they may give you the benefit of the doubt if something screwy happens down the road, like your car breaks down on the way to a mandatory meeting or you can’t get to the drug testing lab by a certain time.
2. Don’t back out of appointments – We understand that things come up and you may have to reschedule your meeting, but don’t make a habit of this. Do not waste the probation officer’s time, so if you know you have a schedule conflict, let them know as soon as possible and be flexible about your ability to reschedule.
3. Be early – When you’re meeting with your probation officer, make it a point to always be the first one at the meeting. Not only does this help build a good relationship with your probation officer, but it helps to show them that you take this seriously.
4. Stay out of trouble – The most obvious way to avoid problems with probation is to abide by the conditions and stay out of trouble. Even if you know you won’t be tested for alcohol until Thursday, don’t have a drink on Monday. All it takes is one Snapchat or one witness to tank your probation. Do not break the law, because it will get back to your probation officer.
5. Document everything – Document everything related to your court case or your probation. Keep a written log of every meeting, every restitution payment and every substance counseling session. That way if your probation officer or a judge questions something, you can have documented proof and time stamps for everything.
For more information about probation or how a lawyer can help with your case, reach out to Appelman Law Firm today.