What Does it Mean to be on Probation?

Probation is a sentence by a judge that establishes a certain number of requirements that a person would have to follow instead of serving jail time. So after a person is found guilty, either because of a guilty plea or a jury verdict, the judge in most circumstances would sentence a person to jail time, probation, or some combination of the two.

For example, you’ve been found guilty of assaulting someone and are going to be sentenced by your judge.  For a misdemeanor assault, the most jail time the judge can give you is 180 days.  But your lawyer wants to convince the judge to not give you any jail time.  In that case, your lawyer can argue that instead of serving a jail sentence, the judge should impose jail time but suspend it, essentially hanging that jail time over your head.  Then, you can be placed on a period of probation where you may have to complete community service or other requirements.

If you follow those rules over your probation period, then you would not spend any time in jail. But if you violate your probation by getting re-arrested or not finishing a requirement, then the judge could call you back into court, revoke your probation and give you the original sentence of incarceration.

What Are Some Other Conditions of Probation?

The most important condition of probation is don’t get re-arrested while you’re on probation, either in DC or anywhere else.  Other conditions can include regular drug or alcohol testing and treatment, anger management classes, and community service. In a domestic violence case, a person can be required to complete a domestic violence intervention program.