Probation is a type of sentence and an alternative to jail. It is court order to do (or not do) certain things for a period of time. It is usually called a probation order.
An offender who gets a conditional discharge or a suspended sentence will always have a probation order that they must follow. A probation order can also be combined with a fine, a conditional sentence, intermittent imprisonment, or imprisonment. The maximum length of a probation order is three years. In many cases they are one or two years long.
Every probation order will have the following conditions:
- keep the peace and be of good behaviour;
- appear in court when ordered by the court;
- tell the court or probation officer about any change of name, address or job.
Conditions vary from offender to offender. Sometimes, the following are included as part of a probation order:
- report to a probation officer (sometimes every week or month);
- not buy, carry, or drink alcohol;
- not have or use drugs that aren’t prescribed by a doctor;
- not have or carry any weapons (e.g. knives etc.);
- perform community service;
- stay away from a certain person or persons, and not go to their house or where they work;
- not to call, text message or email a certain person or persons;
- give money back to a victim;
- not leave the country or province;
- go to counselling or rehabilitation.
In a lot of probation orders, the judge will make the offender report to a probation officer. A probation officer is not the same as a police officer, but they do have the power to charge an offender with a criminal offence if they break their probation conditions.
While on probation, an offender must maintain contact with their probation officer and keep them informed about any change of address or employment.
If an offender has a condition to go to counselling or do community service, or if the judge feels they need supervision, the judge will usually make the offender report to a probation officer. Reporting is usually every week or every month, but it can be more frequent or less often. Sometimes (usually after the first reporting date) the judge leaves it up to the probation officer to decide how often the offender should report.