Probation FAQ

Q: What is probation?

A: Probation allows a person convicted of a crime the chance to remain in the community instead of going to jail. Probation requires that you comply with certain court-ordered rules and conditions under the supervision of a probation officer. Typical conditions may include performing community service, meeting with your probation officer, refraining from using illegal drugs or excessive alcohol, avoiding certain people and places, and appearing in court during requested times.

Q: How long is a person “on probation”?

A: The amount of time you are on probation depends on the offense and laws of your state. Typically, probation lasts anywhere from one to three years, but can extend longer and even up to life depending on the type of conviction, such as drug or sex offenses.

Q: What are some examples of the terms or conditions of probation?

A: A person who is placed on probation is usually required to report to a probation officer and follow a variety of conditions during the probation period. Specific conditions may include:

  • Regularly meeting with your probation officer at set times;
  • Appearing at any scheduled court appearances;
  • Paying fines or restitution (monies to victims);
  • Avoiding certain people and places;
  • Not traveling out of state without the permission of your probation officer;
  • Obeying all laws, including minor laws such as jaywalking;
  • Refraining from illegal drug use or excessive alcohol use; and/or
  • Submitting to drug or alcohol testing.

Typically, the conditions imposed relate to the type of criminal offense. For example, a judge may require you to submit to periodic drug testing or attend a drug rehabilitation program for a drug-related offense. Similarly, a judge may require that you avoid specific people or group members for a gang-related or battery type of offense.

Q: What happens if I violate my probation?

A: A probation violation occurs when you break any of the rules or conditions set forth in the probation order at any time during the probation period. When a potential violation is discovered, your probation officer has the discretion to simply give you a warning, or require you to attend a probation violation hearing. If a judge determines that you violated your probation, you may face additional probation terms, heavy fines, a revoked probation, jail time, or more.

Q: What are my legal rights at a revocation hearing?

A: During a revocation hearing, the prosecuting attorney must show that you, more likely than not, violated a term or condition of your probation. Generally, you have a right to learn of any new charges against you and to present evidence in court before a neutral judge that may support your case and/or refute the evidence brought against you. You may wish to consult with an attorney or other legal professional regarding the rights available to you in your particular state.

Q: What happens if my probation is revoked?

A: A revoked probation does not automatically mean you will be sent to jail. A judge has a variety of options available during sentencing. For instance, upon a revoked probation, a judge may add an extra length to the probation, impose additional fines, or require you to get counseling or attend other treatment programs. Alternatively, a judge may order you to spend a brief period of time in jail, or require you to serve the time allotted on your original sentence, depending on the circumstances.

Q: Can I appeal a probation violation conviction?

A: Yes. In most states, you can appeal the ruling to the state’s next highest court. If the court finds that the lower court erred, or that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction, you may have your probation violation dismissed.

Q: What’s the difference between probation and parole?

A: While parole is not the same as probation, there are similarities. Parole is a conditional release from prison that allows a prisoner to rejoin the community after serving all, or a part, of his or her prison term. Probation, on the other hand, is a sentencing order that allows a person convicted of a crime to remain out of jail altogether.

In both cases, a person must follow certain court-ordered procedures and avoid getting into trouble with the law. Probation and parole violations both occur when a person either breaks the rules or fails to comply with the terms of the probation or parole, including being arrested for another offense.

Both probation and parole violations carry significant consequences and penalties. The violator may be returned to jail (if on parole) or sent to jail (if on probation), if the lapse is serious.

Q: Can I ever shorten my time on probation?

A: In most states, you may apply for an early release from probation, yet it is entirely discretionary (not mandatory) for a judge to allow. Typically, a deciding judge will require you to have served at least a third of your probation before eligibility for early release. In addition, a judge may require all of the conditions of your probation be met, for example, rehabilitation classes completed, community service performed, and monies paid. Also, many states won’t shortened probation for certain offenses such as DUI, sex crimes, and jail felonies.

 

 

What is the difference between probation and parole 
Probation is a sentence allowing the offender to remain in the community under supervision. The courts have the right to re-sentence the offender if he/she violates the rules and regulations of their probation.

Parole is a conditional release from incarceration, not a release from legal custody, under a set Rules similar to probation. In Pennsylvania, an inmate must serve at least the minimum Sentence before being paroled.

To Top ]

What is the difference between a County and a State sentence? 
NOTE: DUI legislation taking effect in 2004 creates exceptions to the answer below. The exceptions are for only DUI arrests on or after February 1, 2004.

In Pennsylvania, a sentence of incarceration will normally have a minimum and a maximum length of time. In fact, the minimum cannot be more than ½ of the maximum sentence. This is why you will note that sentences are 1 to 2 years, 3 months to 23 months, 10 to 20 years, etc. In Pennsylvania, a State sentence is one in which the maximum sentence is 2 years or more. A County sentence of incarceration is one in which the maximum sentence is 2 years minus one day or less. For State sentences, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole assumes responsibility for the case, determines when the inmate is to be paroled, and supervises the parole case through their state agents. In a County sentence, the sentencing judge determines parole and supervises the case through our department’s parole officers.

Usually, a State sentence will be served in State Correctional Institution (Graterford, Camp Hill, etc.) and a County sentence will be served at the County Jail. However, the sentencing judge may choose to allow the offender to serve a sentence of up to a maximum of 5 years minus one day in the county jail even though it is a State Sentence.

Our Department supervises County jail sentences when they are paroled. We also supervise almost all of the persons placed on probation, without consideration of the length of the probation sentence.

If you need to contact a State Parole Agent that supervises a case in Bucks County, call the PA Board of Probation and Parole District Office out of Allentown at (610) 791-6157.

To Top ]

How often will I be seen while I am on probation/parole? 
Rule #1 of the Rules and Regulations states that a probationer/parolee will permit a PO to visit them at their home or place of employment. However a PO will generally try to schedule appointments around your work schedule.

This depends upon you, your history, your behavior, and several factors used in determining how often you are to be seen. Your PO will discuss this with you when they see you. They may see you as often as necessary to see that you are complying with the orders of the court and help you complete your probation or parole period successfully.

To Top ]

If my PO is late for a scheduled appointment how long do I have to wait? 
Generally, you are asked to wait a half-hour past your appointment time. A telephone call to the office after 15 minutes past the appointment time would be a good suggestion. Especially if you do not have a telephone number that the PO can reach you in case there has been an emergency for which the PO is unable to keep the scheduled appointment.

To Top ]

If I am on probation or parole, can I live with someone else who is on probation/parole? 
In general there is usually not a problem with someone living with a probationer/parolee, however the PO will review this on a case by case basis.

To Top ]

Who do I call for Drug/Alcohol, Mental Health Evaluations? 
Each officer has a list of agencies that are certified in various treatments. If it is a condition of your supervision or you want help, call your PO. Your PO will not only tell you whom to call, your PO will fax information to the treatment provider and make it very easy for you to comply with the court order, or get the help you want.

To Top ]

Why do I have to submit urine samples for drug-testing? 
As you know, there are two rules in General Supervision that address your concern. They are:

Rule #6: I am forbidden to use, posses or distribute Controlled Substances and/or dangerous drugs. I will abstain from excessive use of alcohol.

Rule #7: I will voluntarily submit urine, blood or breath tests as requested.

During your period of supervision you will probably be asked to submit a urine sample so that we can verify to the court that your are complying with Rule 6. It is not uncommon in many cases to require several urine samples during a period of supervision. If there are concerns about drug use, you may even be asked to give urine samples on a random basis.

It is also not uncommon to be asked to give a breath test to determine if there is alcohol present in your body.

To Top ]

How do I get a Travel Permit? 
Our Department operates under a cooperative agreement with all States in the USA and many other countries. Travel outside of PA is not a right when you are under probation or parole supervision. In fact, you must get permission for your own protection. In some states, being there without a travel permit can result in a new felony arrest. There are also states and local municipalities that require you to report to the local police department before staying in their communities. Canada is a frequent tourist or business trip for many, or a stop on the way to Alaska. You are not permitted to enter Canada without prior permission-this includes landing and transferring to another airplane to another country. We have had clients arrested and detained in Canada, as well as one truck driver’s truck impounded. If you give your PO a reasonable amount of time he/she may grant you a temporary/provisional travel permit where possible, but travel outside of the Commonwealth of PA must be planned well in advance and coordinated with your PO.

To Top ]

Why am I being charged Supervision Fees? 
Act 1991-35 states a probation supervision fee of at least $35 per month is to be imposed on all probation and/or parole sentences where the defendant is placed under the supervision of the Bucks County Adult Probation Dept. There are some exclusions that your PO can explain.

Please note that if you owe restitution and/or court costs, the restitution is collected/paid first. Court Costs and Fines are to be paid second. Your Supervision Fees are to be paid last.

To Top ]

How can I find out who my son’s Probation officer is, and how can I contact them? 
Telephone the office nearest you and ask to speak to the officer who is supervising your son’s case. Although your son’s files are confidential, the fact that your son is on probation and who your son’s probation officer is not confidential. The same is true if you are a victim calling to find out the status of restitution or other pertinent information.

To Top ]

How do I report my change of address?
All address changes must be coordinated and approved by your Parole Officer in advance.  Failure to report a change of address to your P.O. is a technical violation and could result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

To Top ]

What do I do if I have a warrant?
You have to report to the Justice Center Sheriff’s Office before 10:30 am Monday-Friday (excluding weekends & holidays).  Bench Warrant hearings are held daily before an assigned Judge.

[  To Top ]

What are the “rules and regulations” of probation? 
Simply put they are the do’s and don’ts of probation. They are the rules and if appropriate, special conditions that a client will be required to abide by In order to successfully complete supervision. Some examples are:

  • I will report to my Probation/Parole Officer as directed and permit this officer to visit me at my home or place of employment.
  • I will not own, use, or possess any type of lethal weapons. Click here to review the Rules and Regulations of General Supervision .

To Top ]

If I am placed on probation/parole in Bucks County but want to reside in another county or state, will my case be transferred to that state?
As part of a probation/parole plan, an offender may desire to establish residence or return to his/her residence in another county within the Commonwealth or another State. Courtesy supervision shall be requested from the county in which the client desires to live. For those offenders desiring to live in another State, courtesy supervision shall be requested through a formal arrangement between States called the Interstate Compact. All offenders whose cases are transferred to another county or State for supervision should be informed that, although actual supervision of their case is transferred to another agency, jurisdiction of their case remains with Bucks County. All payments for court financial obligations, including restitution, are to be made to the Bucks County Clerk of Courts – Criminal Division. Be aware that any violations of probation or parole must ultimately be resolved by the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.

It should be noted that conditions for transferring cases to other jurisdictions change regularly, that some jurisdictions will not allow certain offenders into their State, and that reporting requirements frequently change. In some States, certain offenders are not allowed to visit or live in their jurisdiction without permission, and being there without permission will result in a new offense.

To Top ]

If my case is transferred from Bucks County to another county or state, where will I pay my court costs/fines and fees? 
Restitution, court costs/fines and fees are paid to the Bucks County Clerk of Courts – Criminal Division.

To Top ]

If my case is transferred to another county or state, will I have to pay administration fees to both Bucks County and the jurisdiction that my case is transferred to? 
You will only be responsible to pay administrative fees to the jurisdiction in which your case is being supervised.

Q: What is probation?

A: Probation allows a person convicted of a crime the chance to remain in the community instead of going to jail. Probation requires that you comply with certain court-ordered rules and conditions under the supervision of a probation officer. Typical conditions may include performing community service, meeting with your probation officer, refraining from using illegal drugs or excessive alcohol, avoiding certain people and places, and appearing in court during requested times.

Q: How long is a person “on probation”?

A: The amount of time you are on probation depends on the offense and laws of your state. Typically, probation lasts anywhere from one to three years, but can extend longer and even up to life depending on the type of conviction, such as drug or sex offenses.

Q: What are some examples of the terms or conditions of probation?

A: A person who is placed on probation is usually required to report to a probation officer and follow a variety of conditions during the probation period. Specific conditions may include:

  • Regularly meeting with your probation officer at set times;
  • Appearing at any scheduled court appearances;
  • Paying fines or restitution (monies to victims);
  • Avoiding certain people and places;
  • Not traveling out of state without the permission of your probation officer;
  • Obeying all laws, including minor laws such as jaywalking;
  • Refraining from illegal drug use or excessive alcohol use; and/or
  • Submitting to drug or alcohol testing.

Typically, the conditions imposed relate to the type of criminal offense. For example, a judge may require you to submit to periodic drug testing or attend a drug rehabilitation program for a drug-related offense. Similarly, a judge may require that you avoid specific people or group members for a gang-related or battery type of offense.

Q: What happens if I violate my probation?

A: A probation violation occurs when you break any of the rules or conditions set forth in the probation order at any time during the probation period. When a potential violation is discovered, your probation officer has the discretion to simply give you a warning, or require you to attend a probation violation hearing. If a judge determines that you violated your probation, you may face additional probation terms, heavy fines, a revoked probation, jail time, or more.

Q: What are my legal rights at a revocation hearing?

A: During a revocation hearing, the prosecuting attorney must show that you, more likely than not, violated a term or condition of your probation. Generally, you have a right to learn of any new charges against you and to present evidence in court before a neutral judge that may support your case and/or refute the evidence brought against you. You may wish to consult with an attorney or other legal professional regarding the rights available to you in your particular state.

Q: What happens if my probation is revoked?

A: A revoked probation does not automatically mean you will be sent to jail. A judge has a variety of options available during sentencing. For instance, upon a revoked probation, a judge may add an extra length to the probation, impose additional fines, or require you to get counseling or attend other treatment programs. Alternatively, a judge may order you to spend a brief period of time in jail, or require you to serve the time allotted on your original sentence, depending on the circumstances.

Q: Can I appeal a probation violation conviction?

A: Yes. In most states, you can appeal the ruling to the state’s next highest court. If the court finds that the lower court erred, or that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction, you may have your probation violation dismissed.

Q: What’s the difference between probation and parole?

A: While parole is not the same as probation, there are similarities. Parole is a conditional release from prison that allows a prisoner to rejoin the community after serving all, or a part, of his or her prison term. Probation, on the other hand, is a sentencing order that allows a person convicted of a crime to remain out of jail altogether.

In both cases, a person must follow certain court-ordered procedures and avoid getting into trouble with the law. Probation and parole violations both occur when a person either breaks the rules or fails to comply with the terms of the probation or parole, including being arrested for another offense.

Both probation and parole violations carry significant consequences and penalties. The violator may be returned to jail (if on parole) or sent to jail (if on probation), if the lapse is serious.

Q: Can I ever shorten my time on probation?

A: In most states, you may apply for an early release from probation, yet it is entirely discretionary (not mandatory) for a judge to allow. Typically, a deciding judge will require you to have served at least a third of your probation before eligibility for early release. In addition, a judge may require all of the conditions of your probation be met, for example, rehabilitation classes completed, community service performed, and monies paid. Also, many states won’t shortened probation for certain offenses such as DUI, sex crimes, and jail felonies.

 

 

What is the difference between probation and parole 
Probation is a sentence allowing the offender to remain in the community under supervision. The courts have the right to re-sentence the offender if he/she violates the rules and regulations of their probation.

Parole is a conditional release from incarceration, not a release from legal custody, under a set Rules similar to probation. In Pennsylvania, an inmate must serve at least the minimum Sentence before being paroled.

To Top ]

What is the difference between a County and a State sentence? 
NOTE: DUI legislation taking effect in 2004 creates exceptions to the answer below. The exceptions are for only DUI arrests on or after February 1, 2004.

In Pennsylvania, a sentence of incarceration will normally have a minimum and a maximum length of time. In fact, the minimum cannot be more than ½ of the maximum sentence. This is why you will note that sentences are 1 to 2 years, 3 months to 23 months, 10 to 20 years, etc. In Pennsylvania, a State sentence is one in which the maximum sentence is 2 years or more. A County sentence of incarceration is one in which the maximum sentence is 2 years minus one day or less. For State sentences, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole assumes responsibility for the case, determines when the inmate is to be paroled, and supervises the parole case through their state agents. In a County sentence, the sentencing judge determines parole and supervises the case through our department’s parole officers.

Usually, a State sentence will be served in State Correctional Institution (Graterford, Camp Hill, etc.) and a County sentence will be served at the County Jail. However, the sentencing judge may choose to allow the offender to serve a sentence of up to a maximum of 5 years minus one day in the county jail even though it is a State Sentence.

Our Department supervises County jail sentences when they are paroled. We also supervise almost all of the persons placed on probation, without consideration of the length of the probation sentence.

If you need to contact a State Parole Agent that supervises a case in Bucks County, call the PA Board of Probation and Parole District Office out of Allentown at (610) 791-6157.

To Top ]

How often will I be seen while I am on probation/parole? 
Rule #1 of the Rules and Regulations states that a probationer/parolee will permit a PO to visit them at their home or place of employment. However a PO will generally try to schedule appointments around your work schedule.

This depends upon you, your history, your behavior, and several factors used in determining how often you are to be seen. Your PO will discuss this with you when they see you. They may see you as often as necessary to see that you are complying with the orders of the court and help you complete your probation or parole period successfully.

To Top ]

If my PO is late for a scheduled appointment how long do I have to wait? 
Generally, you are asked to wait a half-hour past your appointment time. A telephone call to the office after 15 minutes past the appointment time would be a good suggestion. Especially if you do not have a telephone number that the PO can reach you in case there has been an emergency for which the PO is unable to keep the scheduled appointment.

To Top ]

If I am on probation or parole, can I live with someone else who is on probation/parole? 
In general there is usually not a problem with someone living with a probationer/parolee, however the PO will review this on a case by case basis.

To Top ]

Who do I call for Drug/Alcohol, Mental Health Evaluations? 
Each officer has a list of agencies that are certified in various treatments. If it is a condition of your supervision or you want help, call your PO. Your PO will not only tell you whom to call, your PO will fax information to the treatment provider and make it very easy for you to comply with the court order, or get the help you want.

To Top ]

Why do I have to submit urine samples for drug-testing? 
As you know, there are two rules in General Supervision that address your concern. They are:

Rule #6: I am forbidden to use, posses or distribute Controlled Substances and/or dangerous drugs. I will abstain from excessive use of alcohol.

Rule #7: I will voluntarily submit urine, blood or breath tests as requested.

During your period of supervision you will probably be asked to submit a urine sample so that we can verify to the court that your are complying with Rule 6. It is not uncommon in many cases to require several urine samples during a period of supervision. If there are concerns about drug use, you may even be asked to give urine samples on a random basis.

It is also not uncommon to be asked to give a breath test to determine if there is alcohol present in your body.

To Top ]

How do I get a Travel Permit? 
Our Department operates under a cooperative agreement with all States in the USA and many other countries. Travel outside of PA is not a right when you are under probation or parole supervision. In fact, you must get permission for your own protection. In some states, being there without a travel permit can result in a new felony arrest. There are also states and local municipalities that require you to report to the local police department before staying in their communities. Canada is a frequent tourist or business trip for many, or a stop on the way to Alaska. You are not permitted to enter Canada without prior permission-this includes landing and transferring to another airplane to another country. We have had clients arrested and detained in Canada, as well as one truck driver’s truck impounded. If you give your PO a reasonable amount of time he/she may grant you a temporary/provisional travel permit where possible, but travel outside of the Commonwealth of PA must be planned well in advance and coordinated with your PO.

To Top ]

Why am I being charged Supervision Fees? 
Act 1991-35 states a probation supervision fee of at least $35 per month is to be imposed on all probation and/or parole sentences where the defendant is placed under the supervision of the Bucks County Adult Probation Dept. There are some exclusions that your PO can explain.

Please note that if you owe restitution and/or court costs, the restitution is collected/paid first. Court Costs and Fines are to be paid second. Your Supervision Fees are to be paid last.

To Top ]

How can I find out who my son’s Probation officer is, and how can I contact them? 
Telephone the office nearest you and ask to speak to the officer who is supervising your son’s case. Although your son’s files are confidential, the fact that your son is on probation and who your son’s probation officer is not confidential. The same is true if you are a victim calling to find out the status of restitution or other pertinent information.

To Top ]

How do I report my change of address?
All address changes must be coordinated and approved by your Parole Officer in advance.  Failure to report a change of address to your P.O. is a technical violation and could result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

To Top ]

What do I do if I have a warrant?
You have to report to the Justice Center Sheriff’s Office before 10:30 am Monday-Friday (excluding weekends & holidays).  Bench Warrant hearings are held daily before an assigned Judge.

[  To Top ]

What are the “rules and regulations” of probation? 
Simply put they are the do’s and don’ts of probation. They are the rules and if appropriate, special conditions that a client will be required to abide by In order to successfully complete supervision. Some examples are:

  • I will report to my Probation/Parole Officer as directed and permit this officer to visit me at my home or place of employment.
  • I will not own, use, or possess any type of lethal weapons. Click here to review the Rules and Regulations of General Supervision .

To Top ]

If I am placed on probation/parole in Bucks County but want to reside in another county or state, will my case be transferred to that state?
As part of a probation/parole plan, an offender may desire to establish residence or return to his/her residence in another county within the Commonwealth or another State. Courtesy supervision shall be requested from the county in which the client desires to live. For those offenders desiring to live in another State, courtesy supervision shall be requested through a formal arrangement between States called the Interstate Compact. All offenders whose cases are transferred to another county or State for supervision should be informed that, although actual supervision of their case is transferred to another agency, jurisdiction of their case remains with Bucks County. All payments for court financial obligations, including restitution, are to be made to the Bucks County Clerk of Courts – Criminal Division. Be aware that any violations of probation or parole must ultimately be resolved by the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.

It should be noted that conditions for transferring cases to other jurisdictions change regularly, that some jurisdictions will not allow certain offenders into their State, and that reporting requirements frequently change. In some States, certain offenders are not allowed to visit or live in their jurisdiction without permission, and being there without permission will result in a new offense.

To Top ]

If my case is transferred from Bucks County to another county or state, where will I pay my court costs/fines and fees? 
Restitution, court costs/fines and fees are paid to the Bucks County Clerk of Courts – Criminal Division.

To Top ]

If my case is transferred to another county or state, will I have to pay administration fees to both Bucks County and the jurisdiction that my case is transferred to? 
You will only be responsible to pay administrative fees to the jurisdiction in which your case is being supervised.

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