Are There Common Misconceptions about Probation?

Interviewer:What are some of the top misconceptions that people have about probation?

Many People Are Surprised about the Costs Associated with Probation

Court Koehler: Most people are really surprised that it costs money for the supervised probation.  Court probation isn’t going to cost you anything, but supervised probation is going to cost you money.  It costs money to pay the probation officers, and the court is going to make you pay that.  That’s one thing that people are surprised about.

Another thing is people are pretty surprised when they find out they can end it early.  A lot of times that’s an option.  We talked about that a little bit.

The General Perception of Probation Officers Is Inaccurate

I talked a little bit about horror stories of probation officers that are really hard on people, and that does happen, but I think, in general, they get a bad reputation.  Most of them are pretty good people.  You know, they believe in their jobs and they like helping people out.  Most of them are pretty good people that really want to help you out.  I think there’s a misconception out there that probation officers are all jerks and they’re out for blood.  That’s not always true, either.

Will the Probation Officer Allow You to Maintain Contact by Phone Instead of Personal Visits?

Interviewer: Is there any way that probation officer would just take phone calls after a while, instead of the probationer having to come to the probation department?

Court Koehler: Yes, and that’s going another part of probation that’s up to the discretion of the probation officer.  From my experience, for the first few times, you’re going to have to meet the probation officer in person, at a certain specific location and time.

Then, if you do well and you comply with all the conditions of your probation, they’re going to ease off a little bit. From there on they might just do phone calls, or they might just say, “I might pop in, here, there but we won’t have any specific times that you have to come in and meet and take a drug test.”

How Long Can You Be Placed on Probation?

Interviewer: What’s the least amount of time or the most amount of time someone can be on probation?

12 Months Is an Average Term of Probation

Court Koehler: Well, it really depends on what the judge says.  If a judge wanted to sentence you to three days of probation, they could do it.  But in general, what you’re going to see is about a year of probation.  That’s the usual standard.

As an Alternate to Jail, the Probation Term Is Usually the Length of a Suspended Jail Sentence

If you have a jail sentence and the judge is going to suspend the jail sentence and allow you to do probation instead, then the probation will usually last for the term of the jail sentence.  If the sentence was 18 months in jail then you have 18 months of supervised probation instead.  But the basic term is 12 months.

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