Three ways to be placed on probation for a criminal offense
A defendant may be placed on probation for a criminal offense in one of three ways:
- The imposition of sentence is suspended, and the defendant is placed on probation.
- Sentence is imposed, but the execution of the sentence is suspended, and the defendant is placed on probation.
- The court sentences the defendant to probation.
These differences matter. When the criminal court suspends imposition of sentence, the court may re-sentence the defendant to any period of incarceration, up to the statutory maximum, should the defendant violate the conditions of probation. When suspending the execution of the sentence, the court first will announce a period of incarceration, then suspend its execution or service while the defendant serves the term of probation. Should probation be revoked, the court will order the defendant to serve the jail time that it suspended. If the sentence is probation, the court may impose any sentence allowed by the applicable statutory maximum or sentencing guidelines upon violation and revocation of probation.
Compare: supervised release
Probation is one means of supervising a criminal defendant. The federal Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 created another form of supervision that has the worst features of probation and parole: supervised release. Unlike parole, supervised release does not reduce a criminal defendant’s period of incarceration. Unlike probation, supervised release does not replace imprisonment. There is no parole for federal sentences. A defendant must serve his full term, minus a fifteen-percent reduction for good time. However, once released, he must serve a period of supervised release, usually ranging from three to five years. Should the defendant violate the conditions of that release, he can be incarcerated again.