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What is probation and when can it be used?

Most Maryland residents know that when someone is charged with a crime, they can either be found guilty or not guilty. They also know that if that person is found guilty, they can be sentenced to prison or receive a fine or both. However, they may not know that the judge can place that person on probation. But, exactly what is probation and when can it be used in a criminal trial?

Basically, probation is a type of controlled supervision that can be used if a defendant is found guilty of a crime. Probation sends the convicted party back to live in their community under a very strict set of conditions. These conditions are designed to limit the behavior of the convicted person so they do not pose any danger to the people around them. If the convicted person violates one of these conditions, their probation may be revoked and they could be sent to prison.

Probation is usually not available for those individuals who have been convicted of a serious felony or are repeat offenders. Instead, probation is commonly used for people who are first time offenders or for those who are considered low risk offenders. Probation can only be granted by a judge and the length of probation cannot be longer than the maximum prison sentence that the convicted person would have faced.

There are three primary reasons why a judge would grant probation to a convicted defendant. The first reason is to help rehabilitate the defendant. The second is to protect the rights of any victims of the defendant and the third is to help protect society. A judge will set all of the conditions of a person's probation, but these rules are enforced by probation officers.

Probation is a useful tool that can help keep a convicted defendant from further hurting others. However, any Maryland resident who is a first-time offender may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney in order to discover if probation could be a potential option in their case.

Source: FindLaw, "Probation," Accessed Feb. 14, 2016

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