in criminal law is a period of supervision over an offender, ordered by a court instead of serving time in prison.
In some jurisdictions, the term probation
only applies to community sentences (alternatives to incarceration), such as suspended sentences. In others, probation also includes supervision of those conditionally released from prison on parole.
An offender on probation is ordered to follow certain conditions set forth by the court, often under the supervision of a probation officer
. During the period of probation an offender faces the threat of being incarcerated if found breaking the rules set by the court or probation officer.
Offenders are ordinarily required to refrain from possession of firearms
, and may be ordered to remain employed or participate in an educational program, abide to a curfew, live at a directed place, obey the orders of the probation officer, or not leave the jurisdiction. The probationer might be ordered as well to refrain from contact with the victims (such as a former partner
in a domestic violence
case), with potential victims of similar crimes (such as minors, if the instant offense involves child sexual abuse), or with known criminals, particularly co-defendants. Additionally, the restrictions can include a ban on possession or use of alcoholic beverages, even if alcohol
was not involved in the original criminal charges. Offenders on probation might be fitted with an electronic tag (or monitor), which signals their whereabouts to officials. Also, offenders have been ordered to submit
to repeat alcohol/drug testing or to participate in alcohol/drug or psychological treatment, or to perform community service work.