Probation is sometimes offered to convicted criminals in place of jail time, with the length of time varying depending on a few factors. Not surprisingly, the typical misdemeanor probation period is usually much shorter than the usual felony probation length of time. The criminal record of the person facing probation also usually plays a part in determining the probation period. Additionally, the judge can alter the probation length depending on specific details of each case, including recent behavior and the type of crime committed.
Misdemeanor convictions can often result in probation rather than jail time, though it is up to the court to approve or deny this option. Misdemeanors usually include child endangerment, DUI, domestic violence, petty theft, and drug use, to name a few crimes that qualify. In many cases involving these and other minor crimes, the probation period could last up to five years, though this maximum could vary depending on the area's laws. Most states have minimum and maximum sentences, and the exact probation length is usually dependent on how serious the crime is.
Felony convictions often require much longer probation periods than misdemeanors, with the maximum being life on probation for particularly serious crimes. The longest periods of supervised probation are usually reserved for the most violent crimes. In fact, in determining the appropriate probation period for a felony, the damage done to the victim is often considered. Of course, this often means that crimes without any discernible victims can be punished with less time on supervised probation than those that have one or more victims.
In cases that go to court, the judge usually has the final say in the details of the probation period, though the probation officer can usually make a recommendation for a certain length of time. Some crimes, however, come with required minimum and maximum sentences that the judge cannot alter. When making a decision, the judge usually factors in the offender's criminal record, taking the types of crimes committed in the past into consideration so that the chances of recidivism may be determined. The probation period may be shortened with good behavior, but typically at least one third of the sentence must be served, and any fines, community service, or classes must be completed before the supervised probation period can end. It should be noted that some states specify crimes that are not eligible for probation, such as sex crimes or kidnapping for example.