When someone is convicted of a crime, he or she can face penalties that include fines and incarceration. Like other courts, Virginia courts can impose probation in lieu of these penalties, offering defendants a chance to serve their time under the supervision of a probation officer instead of in jail. Virginia imposes specific conditions on when and how probation can be used, and requires probationers to comply with any conditions imposed by the court.
Courts can impose sentences of probation after any criminal conviction by a jury or judge. The court can suspend a sentence in full or in part in lieu of probation, and can impose the conditions it deems appropriate. In cases where the law requires the jury to determine a sentence, the court may impose a sentence of probation, but must also include a statement of the reasons for which probation is granted (Code of Virginia § 19.2-303).
When a person is convicted of a felony in Virginia, the court can direct a probation officer or other officer of the court to conduct an investigation into the person's background. This investigation is used by the court to determine if granting probation as part of the sentence is appropriate. The report includes information about the defendant's criminal history, participation in street gang activity, juvenile records, and any and all other relevant facts that can help the court make an appropriate decision (Code of Virginia § 19.2-299).
Once a defendant is sentenced to probation, he or she is supervised by a probation officer. The officers generally work for the Virginia Department of Corrections, or the county in which the defendant is sentenced. The defendant must generally comply with the orders of these officers, as well as comply with any terms of probation imposed by the court, which may include: reporting any contact with law enforcement, permitting probation officers to visit the defendant's home or work, not using or possessing a firearm, and not using illegal substances. Probation officers typically require regular check-ins, meetings, or phone calls with defendants, and any time the defendant travels or plans on leaving the jurisdiction, he or she must first get permission from the probation officer.