How Probation Works

In Canada, the courts have the authority to issue a probation order that restricts the activities and behaviors of an offender. These restrictions are often related to the charges against the individual.

One of the goals of probation is to give an offender a conditional release or suspended sentence, which allows them to live in the community rather than be incarcerated. The probation order may be issued alongside other penalties such as

  • Fine
  • Intermittent sentence
  • Conditional sentence

Probation is not given to all offenders. Rather, those with a conditional discharge, suspended sentence or intermittent sentence can expect to be put on probation. While offenders that are fined, incarcerated or serve a conditional sentence may or may not be put on probation. It will depend on the judge.

The length of probation is connected to the length of incarceration or the conditional sentence. In other words, a probation order will begin either on the day it is made or the moment an offender is released from jail. For those with a conditional sentence, a probation order will start when the sentence expires.

It is important to know that probation orders can’t last for more than three years. The order will end either on the expiry date or if the court intervenes before then. A court can end the probation order early or decrease the time the order is in effect. Courts also have the authority to revoke the order altogether.

How Probation Orders Are Enforced

Offenders that are put on probation will be assigned a probation officer. This officer will supervise the offender for as long as the probation order is in effect. Their role is to

  • Prepare court reports
  • Ensure that the probation orders and restrictions are being followed
  • Determine if any additional rehabilitation is needed (such as counseling or treatment programs)

Probation officers also have the authority to make case management decisions for the offender.

If a probation officer determines that an offender has breached their probation, they can be given up to 18 months in jail and a fine up to $5,000. If the offender if found guilty of an indictable offence they can receive up to four years of jail time.

Furthermore, if an offender is charged with another offence during their probationary period, the probation order may be revoked. In those situations, offenders may receive a sentence that they would have served if the probation order had not been issued.

Details of Probation Orders

There are some additional details about probation orders and their contents that are useful to know. These include:

  • Courts will outline how often an offender needs to report as well as the kind of reporting expected.
  • Probation conditions need to be related to the type of offence committed or the rehabilitation efforts that have been recommended.
  • Orders will contain precise and clear details about the behavior that is prohibited.

If an offender is unclear about their probation or any requirements that are expected of them, they should contact their probation officer for clarification.

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