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When you’ve been found guilty of a crime and the judge orders probation, it’s better than the alternative – time behind bars. Think of probation as an opportunity to show that you can comply with the law in order to avoid incarceration.

Of course, probation violations do happen often. When they do, you need to prepare a case for your probation officer and possibly a judge. Otherwise, your probation could be revoked, and you would be required to finish your sentence in jail.

Here are a few of the most common ways people violate probation, plus some tips to help you successfully complete probation.

What Is Probation?

Probation encompasses a period of time in which certain conditions must be met under the supervision of the court. It is often dispersed as a way to keep people out of jail while still serving a sentence for crimes committed.

There are two types of probation:

Supervised

This type of probation is monitored by the probation officer assigned to the case. The person on probation must regularly meet with the officer. They may also be required to undergo warrantless home searches or random drug screens. 

If you plan to travel, you must first obtain permission from your probation officer and the court. You must also pay probation-associated fees.

Unsupervised

Unsupervised probation simply means that you are not assigned a probation officer. Nobody regularly checks on your compliance with the probation terms. 

This lends more freedom, however, you cannot be arrested for another crime during this type of probation. You still pay any court fees for which you’ve been held responsible.

Probation Violations

The court sets probation terms. If you violate them, you are considered in violation of your probation, and this prison alternative may be revoked.

Some of the most common ways to violate include:

Not Seeing Your Probation Officer When You Should

If regular meetings with your probation officer form part of your probation, you cannot miss them. This puts you in violation of probation. 

The probation officer will likely report any missed meetings to the court.

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Missing Court Dates

If you fail to appear in court when scheduled, this breaches probation, as well.

Not Paying Fines

If you’ve been ordered to pay fines or restitution as a probation condition, and you fail to pay them, you’re infringing on the terms. Consequences may result.

Not Keeping a Job

A very common requirement of probation is to find and maintain employment. 

Getting fired from a job, quitting, or not getting one in the first place can count against successful completion of probation.

How to Successfully Complete Probation

If you want to stay out of jail, it’s a good idea to follow all the terms of your probation

Follow these few tips to help you be successful on probation:

Read Your Documentation

You are given a probation order when placed on probation. You should read this document and make sure you understand it completely. 

Even if you don’t know that certain behavior is prohibited on probation, it still counts as a strike. You will risk going to jail. So take the time to understand all the rules before you end up in more trouble.

Ask When in Doubt

Never be afraid to ask the judge or probation officer if you don’t understand an aspect of your probation. 

Though intimidating, they want you to understand all of the terms to abide by just as much as you do. If anything is ever unclear, advocate for yourself and ask.

Keep Up With Your Mail

You may periodically receive documents by mail from the court or your probation officer. It’s not uncommon to get letters regarding probation, so don’t ignore your mail. 

If you miss an important announcement, it can cause issues with your probation.

Show Up

When you have a court date or meeting set with your probation officer, make it a priority. You must show up to all of these appointments, or you risk arrest in violation of your probation.

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Get a Criminal Defense Attorney

One of the smartest actions you can take to ensure satisfactory completion of your probation: hire an attorney. They can advocate for you throughout the process and help grasp what needs to be done.

Stay Positive

When in court or with your probation officer, maintain a positive, respectful attitude. 

Remember, at the end of the day: court employees are just people. They spend much of their time dealing with an angry and upset populace. Don’t be one of those people, and it will reflect well on you.

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