Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of probation


  1. A kind of punishment given out as part of a sentence which means that instead of jailing a person convicted of a crime, a judge will order that the person reports to a probation officer regularly and according to a set schedule. It is a criminal offence not to obey a probation order and is cause for being immediately jailed. If someone is "on probation", that means that they are presently under such a Court order. These orders may have special conditions attached to them such as not to leave the city, drink alcohol, consume drugs, not to go to a specific place or contact a certain person.

Derived terms

Definition of probation


    From French probation, from Latin probatio (“a trying, inspection, examination”), from probare, past participle probatus (“to test, examine”); see probate.


  • (US) IPA: /ˌproʊˈbeɪʃən/
  • Rhymes: -eɪʃən


probation (plural probations)

  1. A period of time when a person occupies a position only conditionally and may easily be removed for poor performance

    You'll be on probation for first six months. After that, if you work out, they'll hire you permanently.

  2. A type of sentence where convicted criminals are allowed to continue living in the community but will automatically be sent to jail if they violate certain conditions

    He got two years probation for robbery.

  3. (archaic) The act of testing; proof

Further reading

Probation literally means testing of behaviour or abilities. In a legal sense, an offender on probation is ordered to follow certain conditions set forth by the court, often under the supervision of a probation officer. Offenders are ordinarily required to refrain from subsequent possession of firearms, and may be ordered to remain employed, abide to a curfew, live at a directed place, obey the orders of the probation officer, or not leave the jurisdiction. The probationer may be ordered as well to refrain from contact with the victims (such as a former partner in a domestic violence case), with potential victims of similar crimes (such as minors, if the instant offense involves child sexual abuse), or with known criminals, particularly co-defendants. Additional restrictions can include: a ban on possession or use of alcoholic beverages, even if alcohol was not involved in the original criminal charges. Offenders on probation might be fitted with an electronic tag (or monitor), which signals their whereabouts to officials. Also, offenders have been ordered to submit to repeated alcohol/drug testing or to participate in alcohol/drug or psychological treatment, or to perform community service work.

Arming and increased authority

In the United States, most probation agencies have armed officers. In 39 states, territories and federal probation, such arming is either mandated or optional. Arming is allowed in an increasing number of jurisdictions.

Probation officers are peace officers who possess limited police powers.

Types of supervision

Intensive probation, home detention, GPS monitoring These are highly intrusive forms of probation in which the offender is very closely monitored, and it is common for violent criminals, higher-ranking gang members, habitual offenders, and sex offenders to be supervised at this level. Some jurisdictions require offenders under such supervision to waive their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment regarding search and seizure, and such probationers may be subject to unannounced home or workplace visits, surveillance, and the use of electronic monitoring or satellite tracking. GPS monitoring and home detention are common in juvenile cases, even if the underlying delinquency is minor.

Standard supervision Offenders under standard supervision are generally required to report to an officer, most commonly between biweekly and quarterly, and are subject to any other conditions as may have been ordered (as described above: treatment, community service, and so on).

Unsupervised probation does not involve direct supervision by an officer. The probationer is expected to complete any conditions of the order without the involvement of an officer, perhaps within a shorter period. For example, given one year of unsupervised probation, a probationer might be required to have completed community service, paid court costs or fines, etc., within the first six months. For the remaining six months, he or she may merely be required to refrain from unlawful behavior. Probationers are allowed to go to their workplace, educational institution, or place of holy worship. Such probationers may be asked to meet with an officer at the onset or near the end of the probationary period, or not at all. If terms are not completed, an officer may file a petition to revoke probation.

Informal supervision is supervised or unsupervised probation without having been found guilty of a crime. Probation terms such as search clauses or drug testing may be included. At the end of the informal supervision period, the case is dismissed. This is usually offered as part of a plea bargain or pre-trial diversion, and typically requires the accused to sign a form to waive some Constitutional rights, such as protection from unreasonable search and seizure while on probation. Informal probation can also require the accused to enter a plea of "Guilty", pending the completion of the terms set forth in the agreement, at which time the charge is typically dismissed.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex fori
2.     lex situs
3.     lex causae
4.     conclusive presumption
5.     AORO
6.     landed property
7.     lex domicilii
8.     Miranda warning
9.     lex loci delicti commissi
10.     Clayton's Case