What is Probation?

Probation is generally a fixed period of time during which the criminal defendant must abide by certain conditions imposed by the particular county’s probation guidelines as well as any additional conditions of probation which may be imposed by the sentencing judge. (The First Judicial District of Pennsylvania’s Adult Probation Department has a very helpful list of frequently asked questions regarding probation on its website http://www.courts.phila.gov/pdf/site/appd-faq.pdf, while an example of Montgomery County’s county probation guidelines can be found here http://www.montcopa.org/DocumentCenter/View/721).
Probation can be added to the end of a term of imprisonment as one piece of a criminal sentence or else can be imposed instead of a term of imprisonment depending on the offense of which the defendant is convicted. Typical special conditions imposed by the sentencing judge might include submitting to periodic drug or alcohol tests, to find gainful employment or to make certain payments to victims. During the period a criminal defendant is on probation, he or she is supervised by the applicable local probation department. The criminal defendant will be supervised by an assigned probation officer with whom the defendant will be required to meet regularly in person and keep in constant contact during the period the defendant is on probation.