"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.