Sometimes, those convicted of crimes, whether misdemeanors or felonies, do not have to serve their term in jail or prison. Instead, they are allowed to remain in the community and work, while getting treatment for drug or alcohol addictions. In Indiana, probation laws allow some offenders to be assigned to probation instead of spending time in jail. Probation can be for the length of their entire jail term or for only part of the term.
Indiana offenders granted probation are required to follow specific rules and regulations during the term of the probation. Offenders that violate probation rules may be returned to jail or prison to serve out the remainder of their term.
What Is Probation?
Every state offers probation in one form or another. In general, courts order a probation sentence as an alternative to a jail or prison sentence. All criminals who are sentenced to probation or supervised release have to report regularly to a probation officer.
The probation officer monitors the individuals assigned to them. It is the officer's responsibility to see that the criminals comply with the probation conditions ordered by the court and otherwise live like law-abiding citizens.
In some states, including Indiana, courts will order probation when the judge determines that the convicted person would profit more from spending less time in jail or prison. They suspend the sentence in whole or in part.
Completing the Term of Probation
For the part of their sentence that they do not have to serve incarcerated, they are supervised by the county probation department. Probation can also be part of a plea agreement entered into between a prosecutor and the individual or their defense attorney.
If a court sentences someone to probation instead of serving a part or all of their sentence incarcerated, that part of the sentence doesn't just disappear. It is suspended, casting its shadow over that individual's life. The person gets to stay in their own living situation for the time it takes to complete the term of probation.
If probationers follow all the conditions of probation and do the things they are told to do, all goes well and, at the end of the prescribed time, the sentence is done. If, on the other hand, the person violates the terms of their probation, the probation and the suspended sentence can be revoked by the court, and the person may be ordered to return to jail to serve out the previously suspended sentence.
Reporting to Probation Officers
In Indiana, it is largely up to the probation officer to keep the individual on track, or at least to monitor their progress. What are the rules of probation? Many of them are found in the statutes, although the court can also impose rules specifically for the individual. The probation rules will be explained to a person at the time they are sentenced by the court.
Although individual cases may differ in Indiana, generally the probation rules include a prohibition on using drugs or alcohol and a requirement that the probationer submit to drug and alcohol testing on a regular basis. Offenders are generally also ordered to stay away from drug users during their probation period.
How Often a Person Should Report to Their Probation Officer
Each individual on probation is given a schedule to meet with their probation officers, usually at least once a month. A system known as the Indiana Case Classification System offers probation officers guidance in determining how often a person should report.
Those considered to at low risk of committing further crimes are ordered to report less often than high-risk offenders. Those with lower risk factors may even be permitted to report in writing, rather than coming into the office.
Indiana Probation Rules
Probation user fees are set out in Indiana laws, and these vary among counties and categories of crime. For example, probation fees in Jennings County start at $20 a month for misdemeanors, with a start-up fee that ranges from $50 to $183. The monthly probation charge for a felony is $50. If the person fails to pay these fees, it is a probation violation. Each person on probation in Indiana is responsible for their own drug testing costs.
The probation rules in Indiana also mandate that offenders either hold a job or get into a class or program to improve their job skills. Sometimes the individual is required to undertake counseling or therapy, behavior modification classes, or even serve community service hours. In addition, Indiana laws forbid someone on probation from traveling outside the state without permission from either the court or their probation officer.
If the probation officer determines that probation terms were broken, they can handle the matter themselves by imposing additional requirements on the individual or they can toss it back to the court by filing a "violation of probation."
Violation of Probation
A "violation of probation" in Indiana is a formal notice to the court that the probation officer observed that the individual has violated their probation. When the violation issues, it goes to the court and a hearing is scheduled. Sometimes the court will issue a warrant for the person's arrest if the violation is serious enough.
The individual on probation is required to show up at the probation violation hearing, with or without a lawyer. A probation violation is not considered a criminal charge in Indiana, so the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of proof that applies to elements of a criminal case does not apply in this proceeding.
Court Hearings for Violation of Probation
Indiana prosecutors need only show that the person violated probation by the civil standard of a preponderance of the evidence. This roughly translates to "more likely than not." On the other hand, at a probation violation hearing, the individual charged has a right to ask the witnesses questions and try to discredit them or get them to change their story.
If the court finds that the state of Indiana has proved the charge to the preponderance of the evidence standard, the court can impose various sanctions. The offender is not automatically yanked back to jail, although revocation is one of the possible sanctions.
The court can also allow the person to stay on probation, but extend the person's probation time or add new conditions to those initially ordered. It can also revoke probation entirely and send the person to jail for some or all of their remaining 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.