Sometimes, instead of being put in jail for a crime, a judge can sentence someone to probation. Even though they are not in prison, they may have to meet certain requirements to remain on probation. If they violate the terms of probation, they may end up with more penalties, additional restrictions, or even be put into jail.
What is Probation?
Probation is a court-ordered sentence. It is also called community supervision. It allows you to remain in your community, provided you meet certain conditions, rather than be sentenced to jail. It allows people to work or go to school, and spend time with family and friends. During that time, a probation officer will assist and monitor your activity.
The main goal of probation is to provide offenders with tools to rehabilitate them, to keep the community safe, and provide the tools for them to live a law-abiding and productive life.
Which Courts Have Probation?
There are a number of probation departments serving different courts throughout the commonwealth, with approximately 86,000 people are under probation. Courts with probation services include:
- Superior Court
- District Court
- Boston Municipal Court (BMC)
- Juvenile Court
- Probate & Family Court
Reporting to a Probation Officer
The terms of your probation should dictate when, where, and how often you are to report to a probation officer. You will be expected to report to your probation officer during that time. A probation officer may also show up unannounced to your home or your work.
If you have an emergency, or are sick and will not be able to make your appointment, you need to contact your probation officer as soon as possible to arrange a new time to report. Otherwise, you may risk violating your probation.
Administrative Probation is a term of non-reporting probation. It generally does not include the mandatory regular reporting of regular probation. You will still have a probation officer to monitor your compliance with court orders. Any changes in your job, or residence, or travel will have to be reported.
Are There Costs or Fees Associated with Probation?
There can be fees, costs, or restitution assessed by the court, which must be paid. Failure to make required payments may result in a probation violation. If you have trouble making payments, a payment plan may be available, subject to the judge's approval.
Probation violation can have serious consequences. A simple misunderstanding can result in probation violation. If you violate the conditions of your probation, your probation officer is required by law to take action. This may include a warrant being issued for your arrest, mandatory court reporting, additional probation conditions, or possible revocation of probation. If your probation is revoked, a judge may sentence you to prison.
If there are any problems which may make it difficult to meet the terms of your probation, you should contact your probation officer ahead of time, to try and find a way to avoid violating your probation.
Typical Terms of Probation
There are a variety of probation terms which may be imposed, depending on the court, criminal history, and nature of the offense. These can include:
- community service;
- verified work or school attendance;
- regular reporting to a probation officer;
- scheduled court appearance;
- payment of fines/restitution;
- travel restrictions;
- stay away from certain people or places;
- mandatory curfew; or
- random drug/alcohol testing.
An attorney may help you in modifying some of the terms, or shortening the term of supervision for your probation.
Moving or Travel While on Probation
You must get permission from your probation officer or the court before you can travel out of state, or move out of state. If you move out of state, you may have to transfer your probation supervision to new state. If you want to travel out of state, your probation officer will have to approve the travel, and get a travel permit, which may be issued for up to fourteen days.
Who Can See My Probation Case Information?
Probation officers will not release information about someone's probation. Even a parent who has a child on probation over the age of 18, the probationer will have to sign a release for someone else to see their status report. If you want to see information from your own probation file, you will have to meet with your probation officer to request the information.
What if I am Arrested While on Probation?
If you are arrested or charged with any offense, you are to contact your probation officer immediately.
How Do I Seal My Criminal Record?
After the supervisory term of your probation has ended, you may file a petition to have your records sealed. There may be a waiting period before you may file the petition.
For more information, see our page on sealing your criminal record.
Probation Violation Hearing
Probation violation may carry significant penalties. During a probation violation hearing, the prosecutor must show that you violated the conditions of your probation. If the court finds there was a violation, the court will then decide what to do next. The court could continue the terms of probation, modify the terms, or revoke probation entirely.
You have rights during a probation violation hearing. You have the right to be represented by an attorney, who can present supporting evidence or dispute the prosecution's evidence. If you are facing probation violation, contact an experienced defense attorney who understands the probation violation hearing process and procedure. They will best be able to advise you on your options, and help you present the best defense to keep you out of jail.
What if I've Already Been Convicted of Violating Probation?
A probation violation conviction can be appealed. However, the appeals process is more complicated a procedure than the initial probation violation hearing. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can advise you of the process and requirements for challenging a probation violation conviction.
Don't let a simple misunderstanding or mistake result in having your probation revoked. If you are facing probation violation, a qualified criminal defense attorney can help. Your attorney can speak to your probation officer, and if necessary, represent you in court so that you can keep, or even reduce the terms of your probation.
At Dhar Law, LLP, our committed attorneys have years of experience representing clients with probation violations. If you are facing probation violation, or concerned with the terms of your probation, or have any questions about probation, please contact our offices.