Judges often impose probation in Pennsylvania criminal cases instead of (or in combination with) fines and incarceration. When a court sentences a criminal defendant to probation, the judge enters an order that imposes detailed restrictions on the defendant’s activities and associations.

A probation order may regulate the following:

  • Where the defendant is permitted to go (or locations where the defendant may not go) over the pendency of the probation
  • Individuals the defendant may or may not associate with over the pendency of the probation
  • Physical locations the defendant must stay away from over the pendency of the probation
  • The number of times (usually per week or per month) that the defendant must report to a probation officer over the course of the probationary period

Probation is almost always viewed as a preferable alternative to incarceration or heavy fines because the criminal defendant is able to go about living a semi-normal life. The criminal defendant is, however, required to strictly abide by the terms of the judge’s probation order and report to his or her probation officer on a regular basis. Failing to do so can have very serious legal consequences.

Role of a Probation Officer in Pennsylvania Criminal Cases

Whenever a judge places a criminal defendant on probation, the defendant is almost always put under the supervision of a probation officer. The defendant is then court-ordered to report to the probation officer on a regular basis – usually weekly or monthly.

A probation officer’s main role is to ensure that the defendant is following the judge’s probation order to a tee. A defendant’s probation officer may monitor the defendant’s activities at any time. Each Pennsylvania county has a probation office.

Criminal Defendant’s Responsibilities While on Probation

While the defendant’s probation is pending, he or she is responsible for the following:

  • Reporting to the assigned probation officer as scheduled
  • Notifying the assigned probation officer of any changes in address, telephone, or employment status
  • Avoiding illegal drug use and every other illegal criminal activity
  • Avoiding convictions or arrests while the probation is pending

Violation and Potential Revocation of Probation

When a judge places a criminal defendant on probation, the defendant is required to abide by the probationary terms of the judge’s order. Failing to abide by those terms could potentially result in a probation violation and/or a revocation of the defendant’s probation.

If the defendant violates the terms of probation, the state prosecutor’s office may then file a probation revocation request. Following a revocation hearing in court, the judge could potentially revoke the probation and impose a sentence up to the maximum for that criminal conviction. This sentence could include hefty fines, lengthy jail time, or both.

Successful Completion of Probation

It is most important that criminal defendants successfully complete their probation without any violations. Assuming a defendant successfully completes probation and does not have any other criminal convictions, record expungement may be a possibility.

If you have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, it is essential that you have an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney on your side throughout your case. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can analyze the facts and circumstances of your individual case and help you to obtain the best possible result.

Call Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer as Soon as Possible

At The Zeiger Firm, we can help you receive probation in lieu of jail time whenever possible. We can also represent you if you have been accused of violating the terms of your probation and are facing a revocation hearing. Please call to discuss your case today at 215-546-0340.


1 http://www.courts.phila.gov/common-pleas/trial/criminal/appd.asp


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