Probation is used as an alternative to incarceration to address goals and issues of someone convicted of a crime which can best be served in an “out of jail” arena.
Probation can be as short as one year, and can last as long as 10 years.
The obligations while on probation vary, but depend on why the offender is placed on probation and what needs must be addressed and resolved while the person is on probation. For example, if someone is placed on probation for an assault conviction, they may be required to attend an anger management class to help address anger issues or conflict resolution.
Generally speaking however, all Probationers must regularly meet with their Probation Officer, remain arrest-free during the course of probation and abide by all reasonable terms imposed on them by the Court or Probation Department.
If someone is not successful on probation they are classified as “delinquent.” Once this occurs they are brought before a Judge who decides if they will remain free or be sent to jail pending a Violation of Probation Hearing. At such a hearing, the offender has far fewer rights than if they were simply accused of a crime, as being on probation means the Probationer has already admitted guilt. At a Violation of Probation Hearing, the standard of proof, that is, what is required to sustain the delinquency is far lower than a typical criminal case in that the standard is lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the violation is sustained, the Judge can resentence the probation to anything up to the maximum sentence available for the crime the individual was placed on probation for.