Client Guide – What is probation?

Written by Reynolds Defense Firm

On October 4, 2019

So your attorney has helped you resolve your case with a plea – congratulations! This means the hardest part of your case (the initial shock, fear and uncertainty) is over. The next step is completing your court requirements, and with the guidance of your attorney, you should have a pretty good idea of what each requirement entails. Now, we don’t want to make light of your court obligations. They weren’t designed to be a “cake walk” and it’s important to recognize that they will require a lot of effort on your part to get them done successfully. However, if you stay focused and keep your “eye on the prize,” sooner than later you can put your court case behind you and move on with your life.

Whether you were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, you were most likely sentenced to probation, in addition to the other court requirements, such as drug and alcohol treatment, fines, and/or jail time. Sure, “fines” and “jail” are self-explanatory, but what exactly is probation?

There are two categories of probation in Oregon

Oregon has two categories of probation: formal and informal. Formal probation is most commonly known as “supervised” probation. Informal probation is referred to as “bench” probation. There is no law requiring courts to impose one type of probation over the other. That decision is left up to the court, on a case by case basis, and usually differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Formal (or “Supervised”)

Supervised probation is exactly what you might imagine. During your probationary period, a probation officer is assigned to supervise you, and they may require regular check-ins. Depending on the jurisdiction, these check-in’s could either be in-person or telephonic. You can also expect to pay a monthly monitoring fee to the probation department. With a second or subsequent DUI conviction, if you want to move out of state, you must apply for what is called an “interstate compact.” This process is basically seeking permission from the state that you wish to move to, as your supervision will be transferred to them.

Informal (or “Bench”)

While on bench probation, the court technically monitors your case instead of a probation officer. You won’t have regular check-ins and usually you’re only required to pay a one-time fee of $100 to the court, instead of making monthly payments. The court’s level of involvement is usually minimal as long as you stay on top of probation requirements. Some jurisdictions have “enhanced” bench probation. For this type of bench probation you are monitored by the court evaluator rather than the court and you could be required to complete random urinalysis tests and/or check-in with them regularly.

Traveling on Supervised Probation

Before you travel out-of-state, you should review the terms of your probation agreement and always speak with your probation officer. Depending on the terms of your probation, your probation officer may be able to grant you permission to travel.

Traveling on Bench Probation

Although you don’t have a probation officer, you are required to check in with the court prior to any traveling. Every jurisdiction requires different things – some courts may want you to simply send in a letter informing them of your travel plans, and some courts may require a more official request. To know what you need to do, contact the judge who sentenced you to probation and ask for guidance.

No matter what type of probation you are on, ultimately, achieving success in your court obligations comes down to the same thing as finding success in your personal life – communication. Whether a probation officer, judge, or evaluator, they’re all just people too. Honesty and being clear with your intentions go a long way.


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