Legal Dictionary

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Probation

"Probation" is a court imposed sentence allowing conditional release of a convicted defendant into the community instead of going to jail, or after serving a specified jail term, subject to certain conditions being met. Typical conditions include staying out of trouble with the law, reporting to a probation officer (formal probation) or fulfilling all the conditions imposed by the court. If the conditions of probation are not met, probation can be revoked and the probationer (defendant) can go to jail or be sent to prison.

Probation in felony and misdemeanor cases generally extends to three years, but in some cases may go as long as five years. Informal or summary probation is generally granted on misdemeanor cases. This means the defendant does not have to report to a probation officer monthly, but merely obey all laws, rules, and orders of the court.