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Shawn Bible - Lawyer in NW Georgia

What is Probation?


What is probation?  Well, the actual word probation roughly translates “to prove yourself” in Latin.  This is in practice what probation is in our criminal justice system.  Probation is a way for a defendant to prove to the court that he will obey the law if allowed to stay out of prison.  If you read an actual criminal sentence when someone is put on probation it clearly states what probation is.  When a Judge puts defendants on probation the Judge is in fact sentencing that defendant to incarceration but suspending that sentence of confinement and placing that defendant on probation instead.

Put into everyday English, what the Judge is really saying when he puts a defendant on probation is:  “I am going to give you a chance not to be locked up but you have to follow my rules and stay out of trouble.  If you violate the law or don’t follow the instructions of your probation officer I will lock you up.”

Of course, not all probation is the same.  For misdemeanor offenses, probation can be way to collect fines.  For example, if you get a speeding ticket and cannot pay the fine at the time of your court date, probation can be the mechanism whereby the Court collects fine money.  For more serious misdemeanor offenses, probation is way for the court to ensure that defendants complete mandated courses such as driver safety or DUI school and complete court ordered community service.  In Georgia, misdemeanor probation is often administered by private companies that contract with local government to supervise probationers.

In Georgia, felony probation officers are State employees.  These felony probation officers have arrest powers and wide authority to enforce the rules of probation.  Violating felony probation is a serious offense, which can land a probationer in jail or in a state probation detention center.  For serious violations of probation, a Judge has the power to revoke a probationer’s full sentence and send that defendant to prison.