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What Does It Mean To Be Put on Probation in North Carolina?

Probation officer

Many people charged with crimes in North Carolina can expect to be placed on probation if they are convicted. Understandably they have questions about what exactly is involved with a probationary sentence. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, there are currently about 95,500 people on probation in the state. All of these people have to comply with some specific rules and limitations. So, today, let us take a look at what it means to be put on probation in North Carolina.

What is probation in North Carolina?

When a person is convicted of a crime in North Carolina, the court generally must impose a sentence (which is measured in days or months) and then either require the defendant to serve that time or suspend that sentence for a period of probation. This means that when a court sentences someone to probation, they are placing them under a set of conditions with which they must comply as a condition of them not having to serve their sentence.

A person placed on probation is called a “probationer”. When the court enters the judgment suspending a sentence and placing somebody on probation, the court must spell out the length of the period of probation and the terms and conditions. This information is then recorded in the court judgment. This judgment can later be modified to change the duration of the probation (to make it shorter or longer) or to modify the terms of the probation. If the probationer fails to comply with the terms and conditions of probation then they risk being brought back to court for a hearing on a probation violation.

What is the difference between supervised and unsupervised probation?

When a defendant is placed on unsupervised probation they are not assigned an actual probation officer and generally, nobody is actively monitoring their compliance with the court judgment. If the probationer violates a condition of that probation they are less likely to be brought back to court for a violation hearing because it is less likely that anybody will be aware of the violation.

Supervised probation means that the probationer has a probation officer assigned to their case. Generally, they are required to meet with that officer on a regular basis which can vary depending on the seriousness of the case.

What kinds of restrictions come with probation in North Carolina?

Generally, there are two types of conditions for probation: standard conditions and special conditions. For unsupervised probation, the standard conditions generally are things such as not violating any laws during the period of probation and the payment of court costs and fines. Standard conditions of supervised probation may also include remaining within the state unless granted permission to travel, submitting to warrantless searches for drugs and contraband, and the payment of supervision fees.

Special conditions of probation are those which the court has elected to add to the standard conditions, and might involve serving a period of confinement while on probation, completing a drug or alcohol assessment and treatment or performance of community service.

Will I be eligible for probation in North Carolina?

Punishments for North Carolina criminal convictions are controlled by a system called “structured sentencing” which dictates which cases are eligible for probationary sentences and which require a jail sentence. In general, a misdemeanor conviction is always eligible for probation (though the court may have discretion as to whether to grant it), while eligibility for probation for a felony conviction will depend on the severity of the conviction and the extent of the defendant’s prior record.

It can be somewhat tricky to predict exactly what sentence might be imposed. If you are charged with a crime in Onslow County, North Carolina (or any of the surrounding jurisdictions) contact us as soon as possible to discuss your case.