If an individual is convicted of a crime, getting probation at all is considered a stroke of luck. The judge imposes a jail sentence, but suspends the sentence and allows the person to stay out of jail "on probation" as long as he meets certain conditions, including regular meetings with a probation officer. Sometimes first offenders get unsupervised probation, which doesn't include a probation officer.
What is Probation?
Probation is one type of sentence a judge can give a criminal offender. The judge imposes a jail sentence but suspends all or part of it. For example, the court could impose a six-month jail sentence and suspend all of it, placing the offender on probation for that time. Alternatively, the judge could impose a one-year jail sentence and suspend the last half of it, placing the person on probation.
For the probation period, the judge orders the convicted person released into the community with certain conditions of behavior. These can include an order to pay a fine or restitution to a victim, do public service work, get counseling, participate in a program to manage alcoholism or addiction, and/or report weekly or monthly to a probation officer. If the offender doesn't follow the conditions, the probation officer can have the individual brought before the judge for a hearing. The judge can revoke probation and, instead, order the original jail sentence imposed.
Read More: What Is One-Year Probation?
What is Unsupervised Probation?
Unsupervised probation is called self-supervised probation in some states which allow it. If the court suspends a jail sentence and orders unsupervised probation, the individual is released and need not report to a probation officer. The judge can order any and all of the same conditions attached to release as under regular probation. If the offender fails to live up to these conditions or commits a new offense, the court revokes the probation and orders the initial jail sentence imposed. However, there is no probation officer tracking the offender's activities via regular meetings, so it is less likely that the court will learn of a violation.
Who Can Get Unsupervised Probation?
The conditions of probation, including supervision by a probation officer, depend on the nature and severity of the crime committed. Only a few states allow unsupervised probation, and typically the only people eligible are offenders found guilty of misdemeanors, without a prior record.
The court can sentence these offenders to a certain number of years of unsupervised probation, and any change in that sentence must be made by the sentencing judge. In states that allow unsupervised probation, it is usually granted to those convicted of a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in the county jail.
In unsupervised probation, the convicted person usually does not have to report to a probation officer. However, if he commits another crime during the probation period, the judge can revoke the probation and impose the original jail sentence.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.