What are Standard Terms of Probation?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Terms of probation typically differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. There are, however, some standard terms of probation that various jurisdictions often share. For example, a person who is on probation is typically required to follow all laws and avoid committing crimes for the duration of the probationary period. In addition, a person is typically required to report to a probation officer when he’s on probation, though the manner of reporting may vary. Usually, a person on probation is not permitted to leave the jurisdiction without his probation officer’s permission, and he is typically prohibited from possessing a firearm during the probationary period.

Failure to appear in court is a common violation of probation terms.
Failure to appear in court is a common violation of probation terms.

In most places, standard terms of probation require a person on probation to maintain contact with his assigned probation officer. When probation has been granted in the case of a serious crime, the probationer, which is a person on probation, is typically required to meet with a probation officer regularly and in person. Often, however, a person who has been granted probation after a minor crime will be allowed to maintain communication with a probation officer via the phone or mail. Alternatively, he may be required to meet with his probation officer in person but less frequently.

Community service is a common part of probation.
Community service is a common part of probation.

Terms of probation typically require a probationer to stay out of trouble with the law as well. Not only is a probationer supposed to avoid any subsequent convictions, but he is also required to avoid arrest. Additionally, he is usually prohibited from possessing or carrying any type of firearm. This restriction holds true without regard to whether or not the probationer has a license to carry the weapon.

People who are on probation are supposed to avoid doing anything that can lead to an arrest.
People who are on probation are supposed to avoid doing anything that can lead to an arrest.

Often, the terms of probation a probationer faces also cover where he may go and with whom he may socialize. For example, he may be restricted to travel only within his jurisdiction and need the approval of a probation officer to leave the area. He may also be required to avoid contact with anyone who has a criminal record as well as people who are actively engaging in or planning criminal acts.

Getting into a fight is typically against terms of probation, no matter the original offense.
Getting into a fight is typically against terms of probation, no matter the original offense.

During the probation period, a person is usually expected to demonstrate that he can be law abiding and productive. For this reason, he may be required to maintain a job. He may also have to participate in community service activities or take anger management classes. Standard terms of probation often require a probationer to submit to drug tests as well, especially if his crime was drug related or committed under the influence of drugs.

Counseling sessions are typically part of a probation sentence for lesser crimes.
Counseling sessions are typically part of a probation sentence for lesser crimes.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


@jmc88 - Like any law or lawful action taken in the United States, it must follow in line with the Constitution and the Eighth Amendment outlaws cruel and unusual punishment.

I say this because I have heard of some really weird sentences and probation requirements that have been administered by judges and have later been shot down by appeals courts because they did not fall in line with the Constitution.

I once hear of a man that was required to put a sign on their lawn saying what they were convicted of so their neighbors would know. I do not remember if this went to court or not, but I guarantee that this would not be allowed because of the Eighth Amendment and the unusual nature of it.

I am guessing there are limits outlined somewhere and I am really wondering where one could find exactly what the limits are as far as probation is concerned?


@TreeMan - The point of probation is to allow the person time to prove to the courts that they are reformed and will not make a mistake again.

It is true that people tend to make the same mistakes and break the law over and over again, but this is not the courts fault and I know several people that really do try to make a difference, but fall back into old habits.

I find that the probationary period is where the courts have the most freedom as they can basically set what one must do, besides maybe serving a sentence, in order to prove to the court that they are ready to re enter society and that they have learned the wrongs of their ways.

I am really wondering exactly how far a court could go in their sentencing as far as deciding what probation should be and if there are limits?


@Izzy78 - I agree and find that interesting. It seems like the probationary period is simply another check in the legal system after someone gets accepted for parole.

I am guessing the whole point of a probationary period is to make sure that the parole board made the right decision in letting the parole back into society or simply let the person convicted of a lesser time receive their punishment, which is included in the terms of probation.

I know someone that got a DUI and the terms of their probation was more or less the sentencing portion and all their punishment was outlined in the probation, which included classes and some community service, as well as house arrest and a fine.

I really wonder sometimes exactly what the point of probation is, as I really feel like they could simply make a law that simply states someone cannot be convicted of a crime for so long after being sentenced and being released from their time served.


I know some people that have been on probation and they have all told me the exact same thing.

They all tell me that when they are on probation they are simply expected to fully stay out of trouble and prove that they are a law abiding citizen that is ready to return to society full time.

One could say that probation is simply a test that the courts use to see if the person is actually ready to be set back into society and they simply institute restrictions on the individual that they must abide by in order to get let back in.

Call going back into society a club and the probation as the initiation process, at least what one of my friends told me when they were on probation and were inclined to follow the rules.

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