Probation in New Jersey

What Is Probation?

Probation is a form of rehabilitation in which the courts allow you to serve a criminal sentence outside of a prison cell.  Probation sentences usually require strict supervision by a probation officer and for you to adhere to very strict guidelines.   The consequences for breaking the guidelines, usually called a probation violation or a violation of probation (VOP), can be severe and often include imprisonment and steep fines.

The courts see probation as an opportunity for individuals to avoid jail and rehabilitate themselves within the context of their community.  As such, the courts are putting a tremendous amount of trust and responsibility on the probationer, since the courts are allowing someone convicted of a crime to walk free.  Courts are very tough on probationers and expect compliance with all the rules.   If you fail to follow the instructions you can have the length of your probation extended, be sent to jail, pay a fine or have your probation revoked.  It is not a good idea to break the terms of probation, because the penalties can be even more severe than the original sentence and it will be a part of your criminal record.  Important Note: Violating probation is considered a separate offense that you will be charged with.

What Are the Guidelines To My Probation?

Judges can impose strict guidelines and rules that an individual must follow while they are on probation.   You should consult with your probation officer as to the specific guidelines that have been ordered in your case.  Here is a list of some of the most common rules that judges put into effect for probationers:

  • Regular scheduled meetings with probation officer.
  • Submitting to random drug tests.
  • Wearing a monitoring device.
  • Attending drug/alcohol abuse or anger management classes.
  • Perform community service.
  • Stay arrest and offense free.
  • Remain in a specific geographic location.
  • No possession of a firearm. 

What Does A Probation Officer Do?

In New York, a probation officer is responsible for evaluating and supervising probationers.  When you do not follow the conditions that are outlined in your probation, a probation officer can report you to the courts and you may be found in violation of probation.  A probation officer is free to use his professional judgment in evaluating and preparing progress or violation reports to the courts.   A probation officer will report any violations of the rules that are outlined in your case.

If you make a minor violation such as you were late for a meeting with your probation officer (one strike usually), you can be issued a warning.  However when a more serious violation occurs, such as providing a “dirty” urine sample (testing positive for drugs), the probation officer will charge you as violating your probation and you will be required to go to court for a hearing.  A judge will then be able to determine if you have committed the VOP and will impose a punishment.

Tips to Successfully Complete Probation:

  • You should go over your probation case plan with your probation officer in detail.  Be sure to review and make sure you understand all the conditions.  Your officer is there to clarify all the rules the Judge has imposed as part of your probation.
  • Be sure to surround yourself with people who will support you throughout the length of your probation.
  • Avoid individuals that make it difficult for you to stick to the rules or who can put you at risk of a probation violation.
  • Become proactive and communicate all issues and questions with your Probation Officer or other agency professionals.

Should I Hire An Attorney?

A probation violation is a serious matter and you should consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately.  An attorney can examine your criminal history, the terms of your probation and work with the probation officer in making sure that you avoid violations.  Contact the Rosenblum Law Firm today for a free consultation.