How Does Probation Work with Federal Charges?

While probation is very similar to programs like parole and supervised release, it’s important to note the differences between each. As opposed to parole and supervised release, which are conditional supervision programs that come after someone has finished serving time, probation is supervision in lieu of serving time. So, instead of being sentenced to a certain amount of time in prison and then being supervised afterward, probation allows you to forgo serving some amount of time in jail or prison, and to undergo community supervision instead of that.

How Does Probation Work with Federal Charges?Lawyer’s note: Not following the terms and conditions of probation could result in all or part of the sentence being revoked resulting in incarceration.

Sentence of Probation:

18 U.S.C. § 3561

(a) In General. — A defendant who has been found guilty of an offense may be sentenced to a term of probation unless —

(1)the offense is a Class A or Class B felony and the defendant is an individual;

(2)the offense is an offense for which probation has been expressly precluded; or

(3)the defendant is sentenced at the same time to a term of imprisonment for the same or a different offense that is not a petty offense.

Serious drug offenses and gun charges are commonly not eligible for probation by statute or pursuant to the United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The beginning of the federal chapter on probation details that probation is generally available in lieu of time served. However, it also explains that probation is not an alternative to those who were convicted of A or B felonies. This would include crimes such as murder, treason, terrorism, violent bank robberies, and major or interstate drug distribution charges.

Most cases in the Eastern District of Tennessee are of these types so probation may not be likely.

Probation is also unavailable to those who have been convicted of a crime that specifically precludes the possibility of probation, or if you have also been sentenced to some amount of imprisonment for a felony offense.

Sometimes a defense attorney can get the government to agree to only convict on a lesser included offense that may be eligible for probation or this can happen if a jury finds the person guilty of a lesser offense after trial.

Conditions of Probation:

If you are sentenced to a term of probation, it includes the typical conditions required by community supervision programs like scheduled meetings with your probation officer, drug testing, potential educational or employment programs, and the requirement that you don’t commit any more crimes.

Probation Officers are obligated to tell the court if a person is not in compliance with the terms of their probation. They can also be very helpful in finding people resources that can hopefully ensure that they are able to comply with probation.

A failure to follow the conditions laid out for you at the beginning of your probationary period will result in a violation, that will be heard and could result in greater modifications to or the revocation of your probation.

Typically a person is in custody up until a revocation hearing. At that time a Judge will determine whether the person violated the terms of probation and how they should be sentenced.

Probation is also unique in the sense that although there are certain terms and conditions outlined at the beginning, depending on how well you adhere to the program, those conditions could be modified later on. This could lead to things like lighter restrictions on your movements and freedoms or early termination, or on the other hand, greater requirements from you or an extension of your probationary period.

Probation is a person’s chance to show they can comply with the rules of society and is not a risk to re-offend.

If you, or a loved one, are needing to discuss probation as an option, contact us today!