Probation Rules in Pennsylvania

Probation Electronic Monitoring
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In the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a person who has been convicted of a state crime can be sentenced to county probation. Probation can be formal, meaning the experience is a supervised probation involving a probation officer and a payment of fees to the county probation program.

Probation can also be informal, meaning the probation is “supervised” by the court, but not by the county. Informal probation requires the offender to complete certain tasks, such as performing a number of community service hours. Unsupervised probation does not require the offender to report to a probation officer or to pay a fee to the county probation department.

Violation of Pennsylvania Probation

An offender can violate formal or informal probation by failing to abide by court-ordered conditions of probation. Conditions of supervision are unique for every offender. Common conditions for probation include:

  • Meeting family responsibilities.
  • Being devoted to a specific occupation, employment or education initiative, typically holding a job or attending school.
  • Participating in a public or nonprofit community service program, such as community service, typically for a set number of hours.
  • Undergoing individual or family counseling.
  • Undergoing available medical or psychiatric treatment, or entering and remaining in a specific institution when required for the purpose of counseling.
  • Attending or residing in a rehabilitative facility or other intermediate program.
  • Not possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapon unless granted written permission.
  • Making restitution or reparations to the victim for damages. Payments can be made in amounts and on a schedule that offender can afford.
  • Being subject to intensive supervision while remaining within the jurisdiction of the court. This typically involves staying within the county or state and being on supervised probation.
  • Notifying the court or a designated person, such as the offender’s probation officer, of any change in address or employment.
  • Reporting as directed to the court or to the designated person and permitting the designated person to visit the offender’s home.
  • Paying a fine to the court.
  • Participating in drug or alcohol screening, such as drug testing and treatment programs, including outpatient programs.
  • Abiding by curfews set by the court or probation officer.
  • Being under house arrest via electronic surveillance.
  • Having no contact with the victim.

Two mandatory conditions for probation are typically that the offender does not commit a new offense and the court determines that the ends of justice and the best interest of the public will be served by the offender being on probation.

Probation Violation Hearings

The court and/or the probation officer determine whether the offender will be allowed to leave the state while on probation. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which addresses federal crimes, drug or controlled substance offenses are the most common reason offenders violate probation.

A judge will determine whether an offender violated probation in a violation of probation (VOP) hearing.

Probation Can Be Transferred

It is possible to have formal probation transferred to the area where the offender currently resides. An offender may be able to request a transfer from their probation officer.

For example, an offender who was convicted in another jurisdiction, but lives in Philadelphia will receive formal probation from the Adult Probation and Parole Department of the Philadelphia criminal justice system

DUI Probation Conditions

Particular restrictions are placed on offenders on formal probation after being convicted of a DUI criminal charge after they have undergone an assessment for drug and alcohol treatment.

If the assessors determine that the offender is in need of drug and alcohol treatment, they may be given probation that includes mandatory participation in drug and alcohol treatment, such as:

  • Completing a residential inpatient program or a program at a residential rehabilitative center.
  • House arrest with electronic surveillance.
  • Partial confinement program such as work release, work camp and halfway facility.
  • Combination of these programs.

If the assessors find that the offender does not need drug and alcohol treatment, the offender will have restrictive DUI probation conditions of:

  • House arrest with electronic surveillance.
  • Partial confinement programs such as work release, work camps and halfway facilities.
  • Combination of these programs.

Sentences if Additional Treatment Is Needed

If the assessors determine that the defendant is in need of additional treatment, the judge can impose a minimum prison sentence as provided by law and a maximum sentence equal to the statutorily available maximum.

For example, if the offender committed a second DUI within 10 years, they must serve between five days and six months in jail. The judge can impose a sentence involving five days' incarceration and five months and approximately 25 days of formal probation.

Standard of Proof for Probation Violations

When a prosecutor alleges that an offender has violated a term of their probation, they must meet a lower burden of proof than they would for a standard criminal case.

In a standard criminal case, the prosecutor has to meet the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, a 95 to 99 percent standard. In a violation of probation case, the standard of proof is “preponderance of the evidence,” a 50 to 51 percent standard.

Revocation of Probation

A revocation of probation typically involves the offender being taken back into custody; they may be required to serve the maximum remaining time allowed by the charge.

For example, if an offender committed a second-degree misdemeanor, the maximum incarceration time they would have to serve is two years. If the offender had previously served two months in jail before they were convicted, they could be sentenced to 22 months of incarceration.

Adult Probation and Juvenile Probation

Adult probation differs from juvenile probation in that juvenile probation is administered by a juvenile probation officer and involves different requirements. For example, a juvenile on probation may be required to serve a term in a juvenile detention center and earn a G.E.D.

In Pennsylvania, juvenile probation involves direct supervision, or supervised probation, to individuals between the ages of 10 to 21. A juvenile must have committed a delinquent act when they were under the age of 18 in order to be granted juvenile probation.

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