What is Probation?

Probation is an alternative to incarceration that allows certain offenders to live and work in the community, support their families, participate in counseling services and make restitution to the victims of their crimes.  The ultimate goal of Probation supervision is to protect the community, rehabilitate the offender and reduce crime.

Probation is the most common sentence imposed by the courts in the United States, and Probation Officers supervise more offenders than the NYS Department of Corrections and Division of Parole combined.

How is Probation different from Parole?

Although Probation and Parole officers share similar functions and responsibilities, there is a difference in the population they supervise.  Probation is an alternative to incarceration, and though some defendants spend a short period of time in jail at the beginning of their probation sentence, most remain free in the community.  Parole officers, on the other hand, supervise individuals who have served a sentence and been released from the state prison system.

What are the powers of a Probation Officer?

Probation Officers are designated as Peace Officers, holding powers similar to those of a police officer, but different.  Probation Officers have the power to arrest, even without a warrant if circumstances dictate.  They also have the authority to search the person and property of an offender, without a warrant, in order to ensure compliance with conditions of probation.  Some officers carry guns, others do not.

What is a defendant sentenced to Probation required to do?

Depending on the circumstances surrounding their case, defendants may be required to: attend substance abuse, mental health or other types of counseling program; remain abstinent from alcohol and drugs; submit to drug and alcohol testing; abide by a curfew; pay restitution; remain employed or in school; drive with an ignition interlock device in their vehicle; or abide by other conditions that are related to their rehabilitation.

What happens if a probationer violates the terms of Probation?

Several different factors are considered when a probationer violates the terms of supervision, including the seriousness of the violation and the history of the offender.  Sanctions imposed can range from an increased level of supervision to revocation of the sentence and a period of incarceration.