How does probation work in Tennessee?

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What is probation?

Probation is an alternative to a jail or prison sentence. It allows individuals convicted of a crime to remain in the community under the supervision of a probation officer. The goal is to provide rehabilitation while ensuring public safety.  It keeps people in their homes and able to work to support their families.

Can I get probation instead of a jail sentence?

Whether you can get probation instead of going to jail depends on many factors, and there is no way to answer that question without knowing the facts of your case. Generally speaking, probation is available for most first offense misdemeanors and many less serious felonies.

See “What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

A person is sentenced to probation in one of these two ways: (1) by plea agreement, or (2) sentenced by a judge following a guilty verdict. If you are on probation, you still have a sentence. If other words, you have been sentenced to jail or prison, but the sentence is “suspended.” The suspension of the sentence means that you stay on probation as long as you play by the rules.

In some cases, a person must spend a certain amount of time in jail before the sentence is suspended.   For example, a person convicted of a first-offense DUI has to serve at least 48 hours in jail; the rest of the 11-month 29-day sentence for DUI might be on probation.

What is probation like?

Probation is usually supervised by a probation officer, and it comes with conditions that individuals must follow.  Common conditions include:

  • Regular check-ins with a probation officer.
  • Drug or alcohol testing.
  • Attendance in counseling or rehabilitation programs.
  • Compliance with a stay-away order.
  • Payment of fines and restitution.
  • Restrictions on travel.
  • Lawful behavior. (In other words, don’t get arrested on new charges.)

Your probation officer will talk to you about your specific requirements. It is vitally important to comply with your probation requirements. If you don’t, you risk going to jail.

Probation will also cost you money. There are monthly fees for probation and drug testing.

Many probation problems can be avoided by staying in contact with your probation officer and letting him or her know if you are experiencing challenges in complying. Your probation officer may be able to point you to resources to help you move forward and be successful on probation.

What happens if I violate probation?

If you do not comply with probation conditions, your probation officer will take out a warrant against you for a probation violation.  This can happen if you repeatedly fail drug tests, if you do not check in as required, or if you fail to complete any requirement.

If you are charged with a probation violation, you will be arrested and will go to court, where you are entitled to a hearing. If the judge determines that you have violated the terms of your probation, you may have to spend some or all of your original sentence in jail.

Get help with probation matters

It is important to understand your options before considering a plea agreement. Criminal defense attorney Carla Grebert can help you decide if a plea involving probation is a good choice in your situation. If you are charged with a violation of probation, she will fight to get you the best outcome. Request a consultation today.

Understanding Probation

Davidson County criminal defense attorney Carla Grebert has prepared a handy printable one-page guide to help you understand probation before you take a plea.  Click here to get it.

Lost your PO's contact info?

Enter your name and date of birth at this link to get the contact info for your Davidson County probation officer, as well as your next court date.

Tenn Assoc of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
American Bar Association

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