10 Tips For Successfully Completing Probation

March 25, 2022 / 11:18 am

You got probation and can breathe a huge sigh of relief now that you know you

aren’t going to jail. But don’t forget, you aren’t free yet. Probation comes with

conditions that you must meet. If you violate a condition, your probation can be

revoked and you can be sentenced to time behind bars.

Probation conditions vary greatly. If your offense was minor and you had no priors,

you may have received unsupervised probation. The terms are generally pay the

fine and do not violate the law. On the opposite end of the spectrum, intensive

probation can require an ankle bracelet, reporting to a probation officer weekly,

drug tests, and restrictions on the hours you can be out of your home. Probation

is preferable to incarceration, but to be successful, you need to understand what

is required of you and you need to do it.

Failure to pay fines and restitution, positive drug tests, and additional arrests are

the downfall of many people on probation. Don’t let these mistakes land you in

jail. Here are 10 tips to help you avoid violations.



Often, the state finds it easier to convict a person on a probation violation than the

original charge. Therefore, the district attorney may agree to a reduced sentence

that includes probation rather than going to trial. For example, a defendant (let’s

call him Lou) is charged with felony possession of cocaine. He has a prior history

and could receive active time. However, the cocaine was not in his immediate

possession but was within his reach. He might be convicted after a trial or he

might get off if the jury decides the drugs were not in his possession, and he had

no intent to control them. Lou’s attorney and the district attorney work out a deal

where he pleads to reduced charges and receives probation and no active time.

If Lou violates the terms of his probation by using cocaine and has a positive drug

test, the case for the district attorney just got easier. All the district attorney has

to do to send Lou to jail is prove that proper protocol was used to conduct the

drug screen and a positive test for cocaine occurred. This is much easier than

proving that Lou had the intent to control the cocaine in the original case. Here

is the secret; a smart district attorney knows she may get a second shot at you on

probation and will have a much easier case to prove.



No excuses, keep your appointments. You do not want your probation officer to

come to your home or place of work looking for you. First, missing appointments

is typically a violation of your probation. In addition, if a probation officer comes

looking for you there is a better chance he or she will find additional violations.

For example, probationer Joe is at work and cannot get a ride to the probation

office. Joe fails to call his probation officer because he just does not want to go

through the hassle. Joe goes home, and Bob comes over to chat with Joe. Bob

lights up a joint at Joe’s home. You know how this ends; Joe’s probation officer

chooses this time to visit Joe’s home because he missed an office visit.

Do your best to make a good impression on your probation officer. He or she has a

lot of power. Your probation officer may be willing to overlook a minor violation if he

or she believes you are sincerely trying to follow the rules and turn your life around.

Finally, make sure your probation officer always has your current contact

information. If you move, be sure to let him or her know.


Get yourself an expandable file folder and toss every piece of paper, certificate,

and receipt that has anything to do with your probation into it. You want to have

proof that you have paid your fines and restitution and attended all programs,

classes, and meetings with your probation officer that your probation requires.



Money is an issue for most probationers. The court typically imposes fines, fees,

and restitution on people who receive probation. You need to get a job. With a

criminal record, that may be easier said than done. Without a job, you cannot pay

the money ordered by the court. Even if you find a job, you may not have enough

money to pay court-ordered fines and living expenses.

Inability to pay court-ordered costs, fees, and restitution can be a defense to a

probation violation. Typically, a court must find that a probation violation was willful

before probation is revoked. Therefore, the court may continue your probation if

you can prove you made a good faith effort to pay.

Look for a job and keep a detailed record of when and where you searched. For

example: “On Monday, Dec. 21, I sent applications to companies A, B, and C.”

Even better: “On Monday, Dec, 21, I went to company A located on Main Street

and applied for a job as a welder. I spoke to Mr. Jones, who is the personnel

director for Company A, and his telephone number is 123-4567.”

Your probation officer may provide you with the forms to be completed that

indicate where you have looked for a job. Do not overlook these seemingly

minor details.

If your probation officer does cite you for failure to pay a fine, the form could be

the critical piece of evidence at your probation hearing. Sure, you can say you

went to Joe’s Garage or Ben’s Car Works at your hearing, but judges like to see

something tangible, something they can put their hands on. Your attorney can

approach the judge with the list to show your good faith effort.

Similarly, keep a record of your expenses. Rent, power bills, medical expenses,

food, and other necessities can be a defense for failure to pay. In addition, keep

the bills, which can be used as evidence. A word of warning, be sure the item is an

actual necessity. For example, electricity is a necessity, cable or satellite television

is not a necessity. Your attorney can assist you with what records or expenses

need to be submitted to the court.



Alcohol and drugs abuse is often a sensitive area for people on probation. Many

who are caught up in the criminal justice system have substance abuse issues and

have not admitted the problem.

Frequently drug screens are a requirement of probation. The court may not require

you to participate in a drug or alcohol rehab program, although it requires you

to prove you are alcohol or drug free with periodic screenings.

Regardless of whether the court requires participation in a drug -alcohol support

program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, give serious

consideration to such a program for two reasons. If you are cited for a probation

violation, your good faith participation in a drug/alcohol program may improve

your standing with the court. And, more importantly, if you do have a drug or

alcohol problem, the program may help you overcome it and change your life

dramatically for the better.


No contact orders are a frequent probation restriction, especially if the crime is

a domestic assault or involved a spouse or significant other. If the order says to

stay away from your spouse, child or fiancé, stay away.

You may feel remorseful and want to make amends and repair the relationship.

To make matters more complicated, your partner may be open to your advances

and may agree to meet you and resume the relationship.

All too often, the result of a violation is the problems that created the original

charge reemerge, and a second conflict occurs. Or perhaps, no conflict occurs

but your partner just wants you gone. The police are called, and you face two

charges, a probation violation and new assault charges.

The lesson is clear. Until the no contact order is lifted or expires, obey it.


If you are on supervised probation, major lifestyle changes may be required.

For example, prior to probation, you could choose with whom you associated.

However, probation conditions may forbid you from associating with people who

have felony convictions. Probation may also put other restrictions on people with

whom you may associate.

If the convicted felon is an immediate family member or someone at your job, an exception

typically applies. Tell your attorney and probation officer and get their guidance.

In addition to the requirements of probation, you need to exercise independent

judgment too. Do not associate with people who engage in behavior that will put

you at risk. For example, assume your friend Bob typically has a little marijuana

with him but has no criminal record. However, on this particular day, you are riding

with Bob and he is speeding, not much, just doing 67 in a 55 M.P.H. zone, but he

is stopped by a state trooper. Unfortunately, Bob has smoked in the car and the

police officer smells the marijuana. The police officer searches the car and finds

a small bag of marijuana lying on the console, right beside where you are sitting.

If you are charged with possession, you may win the case, but why take the risk?


Avoid traffic stops that could escalate into something more. Drive carefully, obey

traffic laws, and make sure your vehicle has no equipment violations that would

attract police attention. Keep your license, registration, and insurance current and

on your person or in your vehicle. Pay outstanding traffic tickets.

Don’t loan your car to anyone or at least to anyone who poses a risk of getting

stopped. Similarly don’t ride with anyone unless you are confident the person is

not involved in any illegal activity that could get you into trouble.


You may not be allowed to possess a gun due to probation restrictions or a

felony conviction. The restriction may extend beyond actual ownership of a gun

or having the gun in your hands. The prohibition can include a gun that is in your

home or that you have access to. Even if the gun is owned by someone else in

your household, you could possibly be charged with violating probation.

Raise this issue immediately with your attorney and probation officer. If you wait

and the probation officer finds a gun in your home during a home inspection,

you will have major problems. The rules and laws vary from state to state and

possibly someone in your household can have a gun, but make sure you get this

right from the beginning or you could have an additional charge of possession

of a firearm by a felon and a probation violation.


People convicted of sexual offenses typically have to register their address.

Yes, registering is embarrassing. Registering makes it difficult to rent a house or

apartment and makes it hard to find a job, and you may not really pose a risk to the

community. However, all the above excuses are irrelevant. One of the last things

a judge or district attorney wants to be accused of is letting a sexual offender off

the hook who then harms another person. So, if you are cited by your probation

officer for failing to register, your attorney will have a tough time convincing the

judge to continue your probation.

Another word of warning, the requirement to register often extends beyond the

period of probation.


• To ensure successful completion of your probation, make sure you know,

understand, and follow the restrictions placed on you. Your best resources

are your attorney and probation officer.

• Know what your obligations are when you receive probation. Do not guess

and do not wait; find out the day you are placed on probation.

• Save all probation-related paperwork.

• Attend all required meetings with your probation officer.

• If money is a problem, maintain financial records and a history of job searches.

• Get help with any alcohol or drug problems.

• Do not associate with people who break the law or engage in questionable behavior.

• Follow traffic laws and avoid attracting police attention.

• Obey no contact orders.

• Know and follow gun possession restrictions, which may mean you cannot

live in a household with a gun regardless of who owns the gun.

• If you are required to register as a sexual offender, do it.