Probably. If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you may be facing probation or even prison time. If you’re ordered to a term of probation, you do not lose your rights. But you do give up control over certain parts of your life. The control over those parts of your life usually goes to your probation officer. Sometimes, a probation officer can even make you move or quit your job. You need to know what a probation officer can and can’t do while you’re on probation.
What is probation?
If you’re charged with a crime, you may be offered a plea deal. As part of that deal, the judge may put you on probation instead of in prison. In some cases, you may be put on probation even if you don’t accept a plea deal.
In most cases, the judge will put you on probation for a specific period of time and “suspend” your prison sentence. If you comply with the terms of your probation for that time period, your case is over. If you violate the terms of your probation, however, the judge may send you to prison instead.
What can a probation officer make you do?
If you’re on probation, there are many things your probation officer can make you do. Common examples include the following:
- pay court fines and costs,
- stop using drugs and alcohol,
- take (and pay for) drug and alcohol tests,
- meet with the probation officer,
- move away from certain people,
- get a new job or keep a current one,
- attend school,
- wear a GPS monitor,
- stay in a certain area like a county or a state,
- take substance-abuse classes,
- go to counseling,
- do community service, and
- many other things.
Probation officers can also search your home. In fact, in some situations, a probation officer can even make you move or quit your job.
A probation officer may make you move if you live with someone else with a criminal record. They may also make you move if you live with the victim of a crime. If your probation prohibits you from being around children, they may not let you live with kids either.
A probation officer can also make you quit your job in some circumstances. They may do so if you work with people with criminal records, crime victims or children. They could also make you find another job if they believe your work makes it more likely that you will commit crimes.
What is a probation officer prohibited from doing?
Although probation officers can control many parts of your life, there are limits to their power. The judge decides the terms of your probation at sentencing. It is those conditions, not your probation officer, that control what you can and cannot do.
This means that your probation officer cannot harass you. They also cannot make you do things that aren’t part of your probation. Your probation officer also can’t lie about what you do on probation.
What can you do if your probation officer does something they’re not allowed to do?
Unfortunately, everyone knows that not all probation officers follow the rules. There are lots of examples about probation officers lying or violating people’s rights, such as this one from Oklahoma and this one from North Carolina. Sometimes, corrupt probation officers may even threaten to report a false violation unless you do something for them.
If your probation officer does something you believe is wrong, you have options. If possible, you should consider hiring a lawyer. You can also make a complaint to the officer’s supervisor or another government official. Regardless of what you do though, it’s important that you document what your probation officer does. Having proof of any wrongdoing is key in these situations.
If you’re on probation, you will lose control over some parts of your life. Sometimes, your probation officer can even make you move or quit your job. But there are limits to what probation officers can do. And there are also ways that you can make sure they follow their own rules.