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What Is Probation?

By Daniel T. Geherin

People in the criminal justice system sometimes take for granted that everyone knows the lingo: Prison vs. Jail; Pretrial Conference vs. Arraignment; Probation vs. Parole. But, clients who find themselves in the system for the first time may not understand all the concepts. 

Dan Geherin, owner of the Geherin Law Group PLLC. in Ann Arbor, is an ex-prosecutor and board-certified criminal trial attorney who only handles cases with a criminal justice element. As part of this practice, GLG handles hundreds of criminal defense cases each year. In many of these cases, clients end up on probation. And, that's when the questions begin:

"What does it mean to be on probation?"

"What will I have to do on probation?"

"What happens if I violate probation?"

"How long will I be on probation?"

For most criminal charges, a guilty plea or conviction often ends up with a sentence including "probation." This means that you’ll be "watched over" for a period of time to make sure you’re compliant with the judge’s orders. If a judge orders you to complete alcohol counseling, testing, and 40 hours of community service you’ll often have a period of time to prove you can do exactly  what he or she judge orders. While probation is an alternative to jail, sometimes the judge will order a probationary period to include a jail sentence. In fact, for some felony offenses, a defendant might serve a full year in jail prior to completing 2-3 years of probation. Other times, a judge will suspend jail time upon successful completion of probation.

Probation can be formal and include reporting to an agent (i.e., Reporting Probation), or it can be informal and not include reporting (i.e., Non-Reporting Probation). If you’re sentenced to Reporting Probation, you’ll meet with a Probation Agent (an employee of the State or County/City where the offense occurred) on a periodic basis. The Agent will often provide forms for a client to complete and ask the client to sign releases so that treatment/counseling/testing records can be sent directly to the probation department. Probation on a misdemeanors generally lasts 6 months to 2 years; felony probation is typically longer, 2-3 years on average. Some felony cases (like capital offenses) are ineligible for probation and require prison; other felonies (like Stalking and Sex Crimes) often require up to 5 years of probation. People sometimes get discharged early for compliance. 

Sometimes, probation is required with a charge reduction or dismissal. For example, young offenders are often given a chance to have their charges dismissed if they complete probation. Likewise, first-offenders often get a "delayed probation" (pursuant to MCL 777.1) where the charge(s) will be dismissed after they successfully complete probation. 

For criminal defense in Ann Arbor or throughout Washtenaw County, please contact Dan Geherin and his firm at GLG Michigan. We're available 24/7, and we will put our 25+ years criminal justice experience to work in protecting your interests.  Contact Us, or call 24/7 (734) 263-2780

 What Is Probation?