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Understanding Federal Probation


In an Oklahoma criminal case, certain defendants may receive probation in lieu of part or all of a jail or prison term. Probation may be given as part of a deferred sentence or suspended sentence, or it may be part of the conditional release in a parole. If a defendant is on probation, he or she must comply with specified requirements and terms of release; failure to do so can result in the acceleration of a deferred judgment or the revocation of a suspended sentence. In either case, probation violation can result in incarceration.

Federal cases also may allow probation, which is supervised by the United States Probation Office. In Oklahoma City and surrounding areas, this is accomplished through the United States Probation Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.

According to the local U.S. Probation Office website, the first proposed federal probation law, which ultimately failed, was introduced before Congress in 1909 by a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma. In the subsequent 16 years, 34 federal probation bills were proposed before the Federal Probation Act was passed in 1925.

United States Probation and Pretrial Services indicates a number of benefits of supervision over incarceration for both the defendant and the general public:

  • Supervision provides a means of enforcing court orders.
  • It protects the public by decreasing risk of re-offense.
  • It can provide substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and vocational or educational training which may allow an offender to make a clean start and be a productive member of the community.
  • As an alternative to incarceration, it allows families to remain intact and it allows offenders to maintain employment, reducing the tax burden associated with providing for a prisoner.

While the terms of probation may vary depending on the specific nature of the offense, there is a prescribed set of Standard Conditions of Probation and Supervised Release. This includes the following conditions:

  • Remain in the judicial district unless being given permission to leave from the court or probation officer. 
  • Report to the probation officer within the first five days of each month and give a truthful written account. 
  • Truthfully answer all probation officer questions and follow all of his or her instructions.
  • Adequately support family members and dependents and comply with all child support orders. 
  • Maintain legal gainful employment unless excused by the probation officer for education, training, or other legitimate purpose. 
  • Notify the probation officer at least ten days before moving or changing jobs. 
  • Avoid excessive alcohol use and avoid all illegal drugs. 
  • Avoid places where illegal drugs are used, manufactured, and/or distributed. 
  • Do not associate with convicted felons or people engaged in criminal activity. 
  • Submit to random visits by the probation officer an allow the confiscation of any visible contraband. 
  • Notify the probation officer within seventy-two hours of arrest, questioning, or any other contact with law enforcement.
  • Do not agree to act as an informant or other special agent of a law enforcement agency without the court's permission. 
  • At the direction of the probation officer, notify third parties of your criminal record and associated risks, or allow the officer to make such notification.

Other terms of probation may include financial restitution, drug and alcohol treatment, GPS monitoring, mental health treatment, and more.

Anyone on probation for a state or federal offense must be sure that he or she fully understands what is expected under the conditions of supervision or release. Probation violation can have serious consequences.

Learn more about federal crimes and the federal criminal justice system on our website.

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