Exclusively Practicing Criminal Defense for
Two Decades
David Olshansky

Probation Hearings

Probation involves serving time without being sent to prison. It is usually reserved for minor crimes such as misdemeanor cases and convicts who do not have a previous criminal record are sentenced with probation.

For some crimes, convictions result in a combination of both a jail sentence and a period of probation. The convict usually serves the jail sentence followed by a period of probation. This is different from a parole as no further hearing is involved and the person is set free after serving their jail term.

Convicts who receive probation are allowed to remain in their community but need to follow certain rules and guidelines. They are assigned a probation officer. The person must report to the officer periodically.

Probation usually lasts for a period of one to three years, but it could be longer depending on the circumstances of a particular case.

State Legislation

The laws concerning probation are covered under 730 ILCS 110/15 in the Probation and Probation Officer Act. The law outlines the establishment, development and enforcement of uniform standards for probation services in the State. It provides guidance on administration of the division as well as processing of probation cases.

730 ILCS 5/5-6-4 outlines the procedure to deal with the violation, modification or revocation of cases involving probation, conditional discharge, supervision or sentencing.

Violation of the Terms of Probation

If a person violates one or more terms of the probation, the probation officer has the authority to determine if they should receive a warning or attend a probation violation hearing. In a hearing, the court will decide if the terms of probation have been violated.

If the person is found to be in violation of the probation the judge may impose additional terms, add fines and penalties or even revoke the probation altogether. In case of revocation, the person would have to serve jail time, which could be either for the full sentence or a shorter period depending on the case circumstances.

Parole Vs Probation

While there are certain similarities between parole and probation both processes are quite different in terms of legal point of view.

A person is put on parole after having served their mandatory prison sentence. In order to get parole, the inmate must be eligible and submit an application. Parole is a way to supervise and help ex-convicts adjust back into society. The parole department is under the jurisdiction of the state authorities.

Probation on the other hand is itself a form of sentence. It is one of the sentencing options available to the judge at the end of a trial. The parole department is under the direction of various circuit courts across the state.

Conditions of the Probation

Probation is like a sentence and probationers are required to meet certain terms and conditions. These conditions mainly depend on the nature of their offense but there are some general terms that apply in all probations. These include the following.

  • The probationer must report to the Probation Officer on a regular basis
  • The probationer must not use or possess illegal drugs
  • The probationer must not possess or carry firearms
  • The probationer must not commit any offenses outlined in the Illinois criminal code
  • The probationer must attend all mandatory counseling sessions
  • The probationer must complete any community services assigned to them
  • The probationer must pay all fines, courts fees and costs
  • The probationer must appear for every scheduled court date

Sentencing people with probation is quite common and the most frequently used sentencing option around the country. Statistics show that almost two thirds of all convicted criminals are placed under probation. The number of probationers in Illinois is more than twice the number of people in prison.

To some, it may seem like probation simply lets people go without punishment. However the program is designed to hold people accountable and includes many steps aimed at rehabilitation and responsible behavior.

In prison, an inmate has very little responsibility. While their freedoms to move about are restricted, they do not have to take up any work. This is not the case in probation where the person must not only abide by the terms of the sentence, but do so according to the guidelines laid out by the probation department. The conditions set by the probation program are mandatory and any violation can land the probationer in jail.

Community supervision through probation has been noted to be effective at reducing the rates of re-arrest. It helps repeat offenders turn a new leaf by providing them with treatment, education and employment opportunities. It also reduces the financial burden on State resources for maintaining expensive facilities.

Examples and Court Cases

During a trial, the court takes the defendant’s background into account before proceeding to make a decision. A person without a criminal record who comes from a difficult childhood may get leniency and get a sentence of probation without jail time.

This happened in the case of a young man from Urbana recently who had been charged with assault and attempted robbery. The judge found his background as a mitigating factor and punished the juvenile 2 years in probation.

The 16 year old, who cannot be named due to his age, was part of a group of four young men who attacked a university student as he was walking on a street near his campus.

The group surrounded the man and one of them threw a brick at him which broke his cheekbone. When the victim didn’t lose consciousness as the group had expected, they ran away and boarded a bus without robbing him.

All the four attackers were later arrested and pleaded guilty to the charges of assault and attempted armed robbery. Two of the other three boys were sentenced to juvenile prison. The only adult in the group, Isaiah Conley 19, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The State Attorney noted that the defendant was one of the two who was willing to cooperate with the police after they had been caught. The defendant had lived through eight foster homes since birth and suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome since birth due to his biological mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy.