All About Probation

Probation Basics

When an individual is convicted of a crime, there can be many outcomes, including probation. Probation is a disposition ordered for a set period of time during which the person convicted of a crime is supervised by the Department of Corrections. Probation can be ordered by the court in two different ways. First, the court can withhold any sentence and place the person on probation. If sentence is withheld, the person would be brought back before the judge to be sentenced if he/she is ever revoked from probation. Second, the court can impose a sentence (of jail or prison time) but stay it for a period of probation. If sentence is imposed but stayed for probation, the person would automatically receive that sentence if he/she were revoked from probation.

Some types of offenses, like sex offenses, have unique rules of supervision that are different from the normal rules of supervision in place for other offenders. There are also different levels of supervision, with meetings with the supervising agent or visits to the offender’s home being more or less frequent. One common trait of all probation is that you will have the standard set of rules, which include things such as not using a controlled substance, no new additional charges, and keeping the probation officer apprised of your current address and employment.

Regardless of what your rules are, if you are on probation the agent supervising you will go over your rules with you, require you to sign a document acknowledging that you understand the terms and conditions of your probation, and you will be expected to follow them. While we all may have the best of intentions, things don’t always work out the way we plan. That can be frustrating under normal circumstances, but for a person on probation it is a more serious problem. You will be held in jail on a probation hold if there is suspicion that you have violated a condition or rule of your supervision. You will be taken into custody, typically in the county jail, and you will be held while an investigation in conducted.

How Do I Get Out?

Almost everyone’s immediate question upon being thrown in jail is the same: How do I get out? In the prosecution of a criminal case, you would often have a bond that could be posted. Bond, however, is not available to you when you are on a probation hold. The truth of the matter is that you can sit for a long time of a probation hold, and you are simply stuck waiting. There are three possible outcomes that can happen next.


A good attorney can help speed up the process of having you released if there has not been a rule violation, if there has been a mix up in the system, or, occasionally, if the infractions are small. Out of the three typical outcomes, this is the most unlikely. A defense attorney can get in contact with your probation officer and attempt to negotiate your release.


ATR stands for an Alternative To Revocation and is sometimes a possibility for someone on a probation hold. There are many different kinds of ATR’s and the possibility of receiving one depends on several factors, such as what offenses you are on probation for, the type of rule violation, and your criminal history. In some situations a sanction is possible. A sanction is a jail sentence, and they come in different increments, such as thirty, sixty, or ninety days. Other types of ATRs might include alcohol or drug treatment, anger management counseling, domestic violence treatment, or some other form of treatment.


Regardless of how hard a defense attorney negotiates, your agent and the Department of Corrections may choose to pursue revocation of your probation. Factors that go into the determination of whether to pursue revocation include whether you are being charged with new crimes, if you have been put on probation holds on previous occasions, if you have been given sanctions or ATRs before, or if you have absconded from probation. Your agent and the Department of Corrections cannot unilaterally revoke you, however. If they make the decision to pursue revocation, you are entitled to a hearing. A revocation hearing is held in front of an ALJ, or an administrative law judge, typically in the jail where you are being held, during which your probation agent would attempt to prove that you violated the conditions or rules of your probation. You are your attorney can contest the alleged rule violations, cross examine witnesses, and argue to the ALJ that the violations don’t warrant revocation or that alternatives to revocation should be considered. If the ALJ determines that you did violate the rules of your supervision and that you should be revoked, you will either be returned to court for sentencing or the previously imposed but stayed sentence will be imposed.

What An Attorney Can Do For You

Hiring a defense attorney can be very helpful when you are placed on a probation hold. For some people, being revoked from probation means losing the opportunity to have a conviction expunged from their record. For others, it can mean a lengthy prison sentence. A defense attorney can help navigate the process, help you to reach a desirable solution, or help you contest the allegations. In many cases, an attorney can negotiate more effectively with a probation agent, or propose options for an ATR. It is also easier for a defense attorney to get in contact with and receive calls back more quickly from the district attorneys office. While the process can be frustrating, the weeks that a probation hold can last have the potential to save you months or years in your future. If you have questions about a probation hold, ATR, or revocation case, contact our office for a free consultation.