Probation FAQs

Written by casey holley
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Probation FAQs
Probation is an alternative to incarceration. (hands in meeting image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com)

Probation is a court-ordered program that allows offenders found guilty of a crime to remain in society under the supervision of a court-appointed probation officer. The exact terms of probation vary from one person to another according to the laws of the court of jurisdiction over the offences. Probation is usually set for a certain length of time. If you successfully meet all of the terms of your probation over the entire course of your sentence, you will be discharged from your probation plan by the court. In most states, once you are off of probation, you can petition the court to expunge or seal your probation records.

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Can I Travel or Move While on Probation?

It is possible to move and travel while you are on probation; however, you must have your probation officer's written approval to do so. Generally, you can travel within your state without your probation officer's approval. In some cases, you may be limited only to travel within the county or within a certain radius of your home. If you move within your probation officer's jurisdiction, you may need to simply inform your probation officer of your move. Moving out of state requires a court appearance and acceptance by the probation office in the area you are moving to. In most cases, you will have to prove that you have a job, home and support system in the area you are moving to.

What Happens if I Violate My Probation Terms?

You must comply with all of the terms of your probation. These may include keeping a steady job or going to school, taking drug or alcohol tests, visiting your probation officer, staying out of trouble, paying fines and restitution, doing community service work and taking classes. If you don't follow your probation terms and the orders of your probation officer, you may have your probation revoked. Once this happens, you usually have to go to jail and then you have to report to court for a hearing about your probation status. At the hearing, the judge may make you serve your remaining sentence in jail, lengthen your probation or decide that you made every effort to follow your probation plan and just give you a stern warning.

What Are My Rights on Probation?

You have the right to be treated fairly and to file a complaint if you feel you haven't been. In some states, you may retain your right to vote as long as your probation status is in good standing. You may also fish in most states. You don't, however, retain your rights to carry a gun--even if you want to go hunting. With the exception of certain circumstances (driving under the influence or suspension/revocation of your driver's license), you may still be able to drive. If you have a job or go to school, a judge may order your license to be placed on a work permit status, which means you can drive to and from work or school only.

What Should I do if I Get Arrested or Get a Court Citation?

If you get arrested or get a court citation, you must contact your probation officer immediately. She will need to know the charges against you, how much your bond or bail was and the date of your next court date. Based on the outcome of your court appearance, your probation may be revoked and you may have to stand before a judge regarding your probation status.

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