By Jedidiah McKeehan

Every single day, in courtrooms across America, criminal defendants are pleading guilty to crimes with which they have been charged and entering agreements to serve their sentences on probation.

This is a good thing.  If everyone who pleads guilty went to jail, the jails would not just be overcrowded, they would be bursting at the seams.

So, when someone is on probation, they enter a written agreement with the probation officer who they will be reporting to, that they agree to comply with all the rules of probation.  If they do not comply with the rules of probation, then they will be charged with, “violating their probation (this is often called a VOP).”  If someone violates their probation, they can potentially be made to serve the rest of their sentence in jail.

So, hypothetically, someone pleads guilty to a charge and agrees to do 5 years of probation.  Well, say they do not take probation seriously and miss their very first meeting with probation.  The probation officer will file a violation of probation with the court.  If the person on probation is convicted, they can potentially go from having agreed to serve no jail time, to serving five years in jail on their original charge.  That’s a pretty terrifying change in circumstances.

While someone is on probation, they will typically be required to meet once a month with a probation officer.  Someone on probation typically has to pay $40.00 to $50.00 a month just to be on probation.

The probation officer will ensure that individuals on probation have stable housing, that they are working, that they are passing drug tests, and that they are not committing additional crimes.

Back to our original question though, what are the things that will get someone’s probation violated?

It can be what is called a “technical” violation like missing a meeting or failing to tell the probation officer your new address.  Pretty scary that these things can get your probation violated, but you would be shocked at the number of people who blow off their very first meeting with their probation officer.

All rules of probation say that being charged with new crimes is a violation of probation.  So even if you are completely innocent, and have been wrongfully charged, simply being charged with a crime is a violation of probation and subjects the person to potentially having their probation violated.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.