What is probation?

If you are convicted of a criminal offence, there are a range of penalties the court may impose. With the help of experienced criminal lawyers in Brisbane city, you may be able to avoid a jail sentence and receive a lesser penalty instead.

One commonly used sentencing option is probation.

Probation versus parole

Probation is often confused with parole, possibly because in both cases you must report to a Probation and Parole Services (PPS) officer.

Parole is the conditional release of a prisoner when they have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Parole can be immediate from your court date or after you have served part of a custodial jail sentence. Probation is more commonly used instead of imprisonment.

However, the conditions imposed during a period of probation or parole are likely to be similar.

What is probation?

Probation is a community-based order, which can be imposed instead of, or in conjunction with, a jail sentence.

If you are on probation, you will be allowed to remain in the community, but there will be certain conditions imposed on you. These may include:

  • Attendance at a rehabilitation or education program
  • A ban on owning weapons
  • No consuming drugs or alcohol
  • A ban on contacting or associating with certain people
  • Completing community service
  • Not leaving the state without permission
  • Telling your PPS officer if you change address or other details

Rehabilitation programmes vary depending on your circumstances. Common programs include drug and alcohol rehabilitation, cognitive self-change or anger management.

The focus of probation is to ensure that the underlying conditions that caused the offending are addressed so as to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

Probation may be ordered for a period between 6 months and 3 years.

Who is eligible for probation?

There are benefits to the community when people can successfully serve their sentence outside of a prison. These include:

  • The ability to retain their employment. This allows offenders to keep being productive members of society by contributing their skills and labour, and also decreases the chances of reoffending.
  • The ability to retain a stable housing situation, thus maintaining community ties and a sense of belonging
  • The ability to maintain a consistent family life, which is good for mental health and also reduces the burden on the offender’s partner and/or children
  • Significant cost savings, as managing people in the community is far cheaper than housing them in an institution.

However, all of these considerations must be balanced against the need to see justice done by punishing the offender and deterring others from committing the offence. Therefore, the court will look at a number of factors including:

  • The seriousness of the crime
  • Whether this is a first offence or the defendant is a repeat offender
  • The personal circumstances of the offender
  • The impact on the victim

An experienced criminal lawyer in Brisbane city can help you make your case to the court in a way that maximises your chance of avoiding a custodial sentence.

What happens if the court orders probation?

If you are on probation, you must report to the nearest PPS office as soon as possible; usually within 48 hours of being sentenced. You will be assigned a PPS officer, who will make regular visits to you during the period of probation.

You must not leave Queensland without permission from your probation officer, and you must notify them immediately if you change address. Your probation will also come with other conditions, and your probation officer will check that these are complied with. This may include submitting to breath or blood tests, attending programs that your probation officer directs or following other reasonable directions.

If you breach probation, you will almost certainly be summonsed to go back to court. Your probation order may be revoked, and you may be resentenced in relation to the original offences. This will also reduce your chances of receiving probation again, should you be charged with future offences.

If circumstances arise that make it impossible for you to comply with a condition of your probation, you should immediately get in contact with your probation officer to make an application to amend or revoke your order. You should also contact your criminal lawyer in Brisbane city for further advice.

Should you be charged with a criminal offence, contact our criminal law firm in Brisbane City for help. We’ll go through the charges with you and advise whether probation is a realistic outcome for you. With our expertise on your side, you will have support during this stressful time.