If you get into a scrape with the law, you may end up on probation as a result of a conviction or plea agreement.

Maybe you were convicted of simple possession. Perhaps you were caught vandalizing a building. Whatever the case may be, now you have landed a probation sentence and are stuck having to follow the numerous requirements of Probation.

A judge may sentence a person to probation rather than jail time for numerous different offenses in South Carolina.

A person might end up on probation for many reasons. More important than the “why” is that you understand the “what” of probation. Otherwise, you could end up violating your probation and serving time in jail.

Keep reading for answers to frequently asked questions about probation in South Carolina. If you need specific answers about your case, talk to your probation officer or a lawyer.

1. What does probation mean?

Probation is an alternative punishment for individuals convicted of crimes. Instead of serving time in jail, a person convicted of a crime is allowed to go back into the community and lead a normal life.

However, he/she must follow any rules and/or conditions set forth by the court. Furthermore, the State will assign a probation officer to supervise the individual, as detailed in the following question.

2. What is a probationary officer?

A probationary officer, also called a probation officer, is a person assigned to supervise convicted individuals who are sentenced to probation.

Probation officers regularly check in with people who are on probation to make sure they are living up to the conditions set forth by the court.

3. Are probation officers cops?

Probation officers are law enforcement officers, but they are not cops. However, there are some similarities in that, like cops, probation officers have arrest authority, meaning they can arrest you if you commit a crime such as violating the terms of your probation.

4. Do probation officers carry guns?

Yes, in South Carolina, probation officers are authorized to carry firearms.

5. Who gets probation?

The State usually grants probation to defendants who are not repeat offenders and who have not committed violent crimes. This is not to say that a repeat offender cannot get probation. It is possible, but it just depends on the facts of your case and the evidence presented against you.

To increase your chances of a favorable sentence, hire a good defense attorney. An experienced attorney will emphasize positive facts about you to mitigate adverse facts the prosecution may present to the judge.

6. Who orders probation?

A judge orders probation in criminal cases. Depending on the exact wording of the particular criminal statute a person is charged under, a judge may have judicial discretion to order whatever sentence he or she sees fit for a particular case. Probation is one of the more lenient sentencing options available.

7. Is probation a sentence?

Yes, probation is a type of punishment that judges can order at a sentencing hearing. A judge could sentence a defendant to probation instead of jail, and in some cases, a judge might sentence a defendant to probation in addition to a jail sentence.

8. Is probation a conviction?

No, probation itself is not a conviction. Probation is a possible punishment for a conviction. The crime for which you were sentenced to probation is what you are convicted of, meaning if you were sentenced to probation you were convicted or pleaded guilty to some underlying criminal offense.

9. Will probation appear on a background check?

No, probation itself will not appear on background checks. However, the conviction that you received probation for will appear on background checks if it has not been expunged.  Furthermore, if someone searches your criminal history, the sentence will appear next to the conviction.

10. When does probation start?

Probation begins after sentencing. The start of probation typically includes drug testing and an intake interview.

11. How does probation work?

Probation includes terms, which are rules that you must follow. The judge decides what those conditions are, so the conditions of your probation could be different from someone else’s. Some standard probation terms are

  • Community service
  • Counseling
  • Curfews
  • Drug treatment
  • Fines
  • Payment of court costs
  • Payment of restitution
  • Reporting any interactions with law enforcement
  • Reporting to a probation officer regularly
  • Restrictions on drugs and alcohol
  • Restrictions on movement, such as where you live or whether you can leave the county
  • Restrictions on weapons

12. How are probation and parole different?

Probation occurs instead of or before a jail sentence.  Parole, on the other hand, takes place after a jail sentence, such as when an individual is released early for good behavior.

13. Does probation test for drug use?

Yes, you may have to undergo drug tests as part of your probation. Depending on the specific terms of your probation, you might have to submit to regular or random drug screenings.

14. How does probation test for alcohol?

The probation office will take a urine or blood sample to check for drug or alcohol use.  The terms of your probation may call for random and/or regular alcohol screenings in addition to drug screenings.

15. Can probation be extended?

Yes, probation can be extended if you fail to meet the terms of your probation sentence or if you commit a new crime. The consequences of a probation violation could result in extended probation, revoked probation, and/or jail time.

A probation violation means you will have to return to court and let the judge decide what happens next.

16. When does probation end?

Probation ends on the last date of your sentence, as set by the judge. However, you must first complete any requirements that were ordered during the term of your probation.

17. Can probation be terminated early?

Yes, probation can be terminated early in some cases. If you complete all of the terms of your probation, you may petition the court to have it end early. The judge does not have to grant your request, but it is possible that he/she might.

18. When probation is revoked, what happens?

Oftentimes, probation is revoked because the defendant violates the terms of his/her probation.

Probation violations depend on the conditions of your probation, but common violations include

  • Committing crimes or other offenses
  • Failing to appear for a scheduled court appearance
  • Failing to pay fines or restitution
  • Failing to report to your probation officer at the scheduled time or place
  • Getting arrested for any reason
  • Possessing, using, or selling illegal drugs
  • Traveling out of state without permission from your probation officer
  • Visiting people or places that are off limits per the terms of your probation

If you are caught violating the conditions of your probation, there will be a probation revocation hearing. At your hearing, if the judge revokes probation, then you could end up serving the rest of your sentence in jail.

In some cases, sentences are worded confusingly. Take this sentence, for example:

“Defendant sentenced to 5 years, suspended to 3 years probation.”

What that means is that if the defendant screws up while on probation, the sentence reverts to the 5 years of jail time.

19. Can probation be transferred to another county?

Yes, probation can be moved to a different county. However, the other county has to agree to the transfer. If you want to get your probation transferred, talk to your probation officer to find out how.

20. Can probation be transferred to another state?

Yes, probation can be transferred to another state, but you must be accepted by the state  you want to move to. Transferring probation across state lines requires paperwork and time.

Be patient. Do not move to a new state until you are sure that you have been accepted into their probation system.

Do you have more questions about South Carolina probation laws?

Whether you are facing charges or you have already been sentenced to probation, talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney could help improve your situation. A defense lawyer will examine the facts of your case and fight to protect your rights and your best interest.

Schedule a free consultation to learn how our team can help you. Call 843-853-3310 or fill out our online form.

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