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Guide to Different Types of Probation in Pennsylvania

Probation is not one-size-fits-all.  In fact, there are many different kinds of probation an offender might be placed on, depending on the person’s background and the circumstances of the conviction.  Each state has its own set of probation requirements, and the penalties for breaking the rules are severe, so it’s always important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you’re accused of probation violations or need help with the legal process.  In this article, we’ll explain the differences between some common types of probation.

What’s the Difference Between Parole and Probation?

Probation is often confused with parole.  While both involve shortening or avoiding prison time, there are important differences between these two concepts.

When a person is placed on parole, it means that he or she gets released from prison early, and serves the remainder of his or her sentence among the general public.  The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency describes parole as “a conditional release that can occur only at the expiration of an offender’s minimum sentence or anytime thereafter but prior to the expiration of the maximum sentence.”  Not all sentences carry the possibility of parole.

When a person is placed on probation, it generally means that he or she does not have to go to jail or prison at all.  There is an exception called a “split sentence,” where the offender initially serves time in prison, followed by probation after he or she is released.

In exchange for avoiding incarceration, the probationer has to comply with rigid rules and restrictions.  For example, the probationer will be obligated to avoid additional arrests and submit to regular drug testing, among other conditions.  If you violate probation, your probation can be revoked and you can be sent back to jail or prison, so it’s extremely important to obey all of the terms and conditions that apply to you.  Depending on the circumstances specific to your case, your attorney may be able to help you appeal the violation.

Scales of Justice 2 - Guide to Different Types of Probation in Pennsylvania

Common Types of Probation Programs

Let’s take a closer look at some of the different forms of probation you might encounter.  As you can see, some involve greater degrees of supervision than others, depending on the severity and nature of the underlying offense.

  • Intensive Supervision Program – As the name suggests, this type of probation has extremely rigorous supervision requirements.  037 Pa. Code § 451.119 specifies that these types of probationers must have at least eight to 12 meetings with their probation officer each month, in addition to “a requirement that face-to-face and telephone contacts with offenders be made at all hours, 7 days per week.”
  • Shock Probation – In this type of probation, the offender serves a short term in prison or jail, which is meant to “shock” the offender into compliance with the terms of probation.  Once the offender is released, he or she will be placed into another form of probation.  If the probationer breaks the rules, he or she can be sent back to serve a maximum sentence.  The hope is that the initial prison experience will act as a deterrent from committing violations.
  • Supervised Probation – People on supervised probation report directly to a probation officer. Stipulations typically include drug testing, counseling, paying restitution to victims, performing community service, and finding and maintaining steady employment.
  • Unsupervised Probation – It’s important to emphasize that “unsupervised” does not mean there are no rules or restrictions.  It simply means the probationer is not being directly supervised and monitored by an individual probation officer.  However, the probationer still has to comply with the rules set by the court.  Depending on how severe a violation is, the probationer may be placed on supervised probation or may have their probation revoked altogether for more serious violations.  Because of the low level of supervision involved, unsupervised probation is generally reserved for offenders who committed minor, nonviolent offenses, such as misdemeanor theft or possession of drug paraphernalia.  Unsupervised probation is sometimes referred to administrative probation or informal probation.

While probation and parole are available throughout the United States, they do not follow uniform federal guidelines.  The rules in New Jersey are different from the rules in Pennsylvania, so defendants and convicted offenders are strongly advised to seek state-specific guidance from an experienced criminal defense lawyer, like those of Young, Marr & Associates.  We have represented thousands of New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents, and offer free initial consultations.

To set up your free, confidential case evaluation, call the law offices of Young, Marr & Associates today at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania.

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