More About Probation

Who is on probation?
What's expected of me?
How is someone placed on probation? 

What are the Conditions of Supervision?
What Happens to a Probationer Who Gets In Trouble Again?

Who is on Probation
Probation is one of many different kinds of dispositions (sentences) that the Court can order for a juvenile who has charges sustained (found guilty) of breaking the law. Some other dispositions are: spending time in a residential facility (Hilltop,  Group Home),  being confined to one’s house (Home Detention), paying a fine, doing community service work, or making restitution(top)

What's expected of me?

Probation allows a person to stay in his/her community and do most of the things that other people do – live with his family, go to work or school, keep in touch with friends, go to movies and concerts, play sports, as long as it's legal. 

But there are certain things a probationer MUST do, which are called 
conditions of supervision:

  • Go to school, or participate in some kind of educational, vocational or work program;
  • Live with parents, or someone else chosen by the Court, and obey them;
  • Meet regularly with a probation officer;
  • Obey ALL laws, especially those dealing with alcohol and drugs;
  • Not associate with anyone who is violating the law;
  • If you move, report your new address to your probation officer within 24 hours.
Some probationers have one or more special terms of probation, such as:
  • Test regularly for drugs;
  • Not associate with certain persons;
  • Perform community service;
  • Pay a restitution to a victim;
  • Attend counseling or enroll in a treatment program.
Usually a probationer will be released from probation without violating the terms of probation or committing another delinquent offense, and all restitution has been paid. Most probationers do that. (top)

How is someone placed on probation?
 Many juveniles who are taken into custody for breaking the law go through Diversion. But some others have to appear before a Family Court judge. Usually these are juveniles who have:
  • been accused of a serious crime – for example stealing a car, aggravated assault; stealing anything worth more than $500; possessing drugs.
  • been accused of at least two other times for any kind of offense;
  • not completed an assigned diversion consequence.
These juveniles are “charged” by the Juvenile Officer. The charges are a list of offenses that the juvenile is believed to have committed, and they are listed in an official legal document called a petition.

At a court hearing a juvenile court judge reads the petition to the juvenile and advises him of his legal rights. They are: the right to have a lawyer, the right to a trial, and the right to cross-examine witnesses. Usually the judge will appoint a Public Defender to be the juvenile’s lawyer.

The juvenile can ask for a trial, or he can admit to one or more of the charges on the petition.

If the juvenile is found guilty of any of the charges in the petition, the judge will usually make the juvenile and his parents come back to court for a Disposition Hearing. At the Disposition hearing the judge will decide whether or not to put the juvenile on probation.

In the time before the Disposition Hearing(about 30 days), a probation officer is assigned to investigate the case. The probation officer will talk to the juvenile and his parents, get reports from the juvenile’s school, and anyone else who knows the juvenile well. The probation officer will also contact the victim of the offense – if there was a victim. The probation officer writes a report for the judge, telling him everything he learned and making recommendations. This report will present a plan that will consider three issues:
  • Community safety;
  • Holding the juvenile accountable for his illegal activity;
  • Providing him with any skills he/she may need to become a successful citizen.
This is the Supervision/Success Plan – a strength-based blueprint for how the probationer is expected to act and how the probation officer will measure the juveniles performance. 

The judge can accept the probation officer’s recommendations, or make other recommendations. Whatever the judge decides will be put into a Court Order that requires the juvenile to do certain things. If the juvenile doesn't comply with the Court order or follow the Supervision Plan, he will have to come back to court and explain to the judge why he didn't do what he was supposed to do. (top)

What are the Conditions of Supervision.
 Not all probationers are expected to do the same things while on probation. Each probationer has a Supervision/Success Plan that is developed by the Probation Officer and the Juvenile Court Judge after considering the probationer’s background and behavior. Each Plan is concerned with three issues:
  • Community safety;
  • Holding the juvenile accountable for his illegal activity;
  • Developing skills he may need to become a successful citizen.

In each case these issues will receive differing amounts of emphasis:

Community safety: How much of a risk is the juvenile to the community? Should he be on standard or intensive Probation? Should he be tested regularly for use of drugs? Should he be given a curfew? Should he be forbidden to associate with certain person(s)? Should he attend a Day Report or an evening support program?

Accountability: How can the juvenile make amends for and understand the harm caused by his illegal behavior? Should he make restitution, or apologize to the victim? Should he do community service?

Developing Skills: Does the probationer have any behavior problems, thinking errors, or skill deficits that might contribute to further unacceptable or illegal activity? What are his strengths? Can he benefit from counseling, tutoring, or mentoring programs? Does he need job skills? Does he need a special education plan in school? Does he need to temporarily live someplace other than his home?

The basis of the Supervision/Success Plan is the Conditions of Supervision.These are required of every probationer. The particulars of each case determine whether there will be any further terms. Terms can be added, changed or deleted based on how the juvenile behaves while on probation.

The Probation Officer supervises the juvenile to make sure that he keeps the terms of probation and follows the Supervision/Success Plan. He must act in many ways to accomplish that: as a monitor of the juvenile’s behavior, a broker and facilitator of services, an enforcer, a motivator, and a partner with other community agencies.(top)

What Happens to a Probationer Who Gets In Trouble Again?
 Trouble can mean anything from a one-time failure to keep a term of probation (for example: an unexcused absence from school), or involvement in a felony crime such as stealing a car or possession of drugs.

If a probationer is caught committing another crime, the Juvenile Officer will file charges with the Court.

If a probationer fails to keep one or more of the terms of his probation, the Probation Officer can write a complaint, which may result in a return to Court.

What happens in either case depends on what the probationer has done to break the law or conditions of supervision, and a re-evaluation of the three issues of:
  • Community Protection,
  • Offender Accountability, and
  • Competency Development.
The result could be anything from a slight change in the terms of probation, to placement on Intensive Supervision , to removal from home, or commitment to the Division of Youth Services, or certified as an adult. 

Any juvenile who is adjudicated for a felony and has two prior felony allegations sustained, must be scheduled for a Certification Hearing to determine if its appropriate to handle the matter in Family Court, or transfer him to the adult system. (top)