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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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Commonwealth v. "H" (DUI case)

Client was charged with three separate DUI cases calling for mandatory minimum imprisonment of 90 days on each case. Client was advised to seek immediate intensive alcohol counseling. Client was sentenced to 1 year of house arrest after serving 3 days in the county prison.


Commonwealth v. "C" (Felony drug/Firearms case)

Client was charged with felony Delivery of drugs and illegal gun possession and was facing a mandatory 3-6 year prison sentence in the State prison system. Client was sentenced to one year of house arrest.


Commonwealth v. "S"

Client was charged with simple assault, domestic. After a hearing where evidence and testimony was presented, the entire case was dismissed by Judge Leonard Brown.


State of New Jersey v. "H"

Charges for young man charged with second degree aggravated assault were downgraded to third degree and he was accepted into the County Pretrial Intervention program with charges to be dismissed and record expunged after one year of misconduct free behavior.


We have decades of experience dealing with local police departments, prosecutors, and judges throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Anyone facing charges involving a criminal offense can expect to experience a heightened degree of emotional turmoil, for themselves, as well as their family members. Our team of highly qualified criminal law attorneys and expert legal support staff are committed to providing each of our client’s with the compassion and understanding they deserve, as well as an aggressive plan for representation at an affordable price.

As former prosecutors, we have a balanced and in-depth understanding of the criminal justice system and how the prosecution prepares cases. In addition, we have long-standing experience dealing with local police departments, prosecutors and judges throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

At Young, Marr and Associates, when we say “experience matters,” we mean it. Our lawyers, which include two former prosecutors and a former senior deputy district attorney bring more than three decades of criminal law experience, handling more than 10,000 criminal cases. It is precisely that experience that allows us to achieve outstanding results for our clients facing DUI, traffic, felony and misdemeanor charges in state, federal and juvenile courts.