What is Criminal Probation?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 16 February 2020
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Criminal probation is a penalty frequently given to people who break the law. It is typically given in place of a prison sentence, though it can also follow another penalty, such as a drug rehabilitation. Probation can also be given to a person following time served in confinement, such as at a juvenile detention facility.

The person receiving probation is generally not considered a danger to the rest of society. Though not confined to a prison, people on probation will still face various restrictions. These restrictions vary depending on the person's crimes and the rulings of a judge. Some offenders may be required to wear an ankle monitor, while others may need to remain a designated distance away from certain people or places. Suspension of various privileges, such as driving, may also be temporarily revoked during probation.

If criminal probation is broken, it is known as a probation violation. Many actions can result in a probation violation. These vary by location. Being arrested for another crime during a probationary period is generally cause for a violation. Leaving one's area of residence before the probation period ends is another common violation.


A person must prove his or her good behavior for a set amount of time while on criminal probation in order to escape a harsher punishment. He or she must often report to a parole officer or other officer of the court regularly. Failure to report to the designated official is usually considered a violation of probation. Once probation is violated, a hearing is set, which may include further punishments. In severe cases of violation, a sentencing of imprisonment may be given.

Misdemeanor probation and felony probation differ in terms of punishment length, fine amount, and other factors. Felony criminal probation typically results in longer sentences and higher fines than misdemeanor probation. Felony probation typically includes formal meetings with a parole officer, while misdemeanor probation may require few to no formal meetings.

To successfully complete, or get off of, a criminal probation, several tips can be followed. Any community service assigned should be completed promptly. Fees and fines should be paid timely as well. Probation officers and judges prefer that people on criminal probation obtain jobs, employ positive attitudes, and generally make an effort to change or make up for their crimes. The stipulations of one's probation should be followed completely in order to obtain the most timely release from the punishment possible.


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