Probation is an opportunity offered to many offenders in lieu of incarceration. It allows adults convicted of a crime to remain in their community under the supervision of a probation officer.
Many of the terms of your probation will be unique to your special case. If you have specific questions about the rules you must follow while on probation, you should speak with your probation officer. However, there are general guidelines to the probation system in the state of Illinois. One of the most important things that you should understand is that it is very different than parole.
Probation vs. Parole
Probation and parole have some similar aspects, but are two distinct situations in the criminal justice system. In Illinois, the parole department is under the direction of the state. The probation system, however, is under the direction of circuit courts throughout the state.
Parole supervises offenders after they have left prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community. They have been evaluated by a parole board, which deemed them fit to return to the community. If they violate the terms of parole, it will be revoked and they will return to prison.
Probation is a sanction ordered by the court system for adult offenders. Like jail and fines, it is considered a punishment for a crime. Adults who are on probation are required to report to a probation officer. If they violate the terms of probation, they will have to appear in front of a judge for a harsher sentence.
Probation as an Alternative to Prison or Jail
Almost two thirds of all criminals sentenced in Illinois receive probation instead of incarceration. Occasionally, judges will sentence offenders to a combination of jail time and probation. This is sometimes referred to as a “split sentence.” Often the jail time is shortened as a result.
Some offenders will opt for jail time instead of probation. This may seem strange, but the jail time is often shorter than the probationary period. If the offender dislikes the terms of their probation, they may choose incarceration in order to end their sentence sooner.
What Happens If I Don't Follow My Probation Terms?
When the state offers probation to an offender, they are taking a bit of a chance—instead of locking you away, they are trusting that you have learned your lesson and do not pose a threat to society. Consequently, violating the terms of your probation can lead to harsher punishments, and likely will result in jail or prison time.
Depending on your individual case, your probation might include:
- Community service
- Reporting to your probation officer
- Restrictions on alcohol
- Drug and alcohol testing
What If I Break My Terms By Accident?
Occasionally, unforeseen circumstances occur and you may miss a visit with your probation officer, miss a court date or otherwise violate your terms. You should contact your probation officer is soon as possible to discuss what the next steps will be.
In some situations, your probation officer will be able to reschedule and help you avoid a violation of your probation terms. If this isn't an option, you will have to appear in court to determine whether the terms of your probation have been violated. A judge will listen to the reason for the violation, and decide whether to continue the probation as planned or issue you a different sentence.
If you have been accused of probation violation in Illinois, your best option to obtain a favorable outcome is to contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Get in touch with us today.