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"Probation is like being married to someone you did not pick, do not like, and cannot divorce," says Attorney Chris Van Wagner.
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Wisconsin Criminal Defense Attorneys Van Wagner & Wood

Probation can be ordered by a Wisconsin Circuit Court as an alternative to prison or jail sentences, in conjunction with less prison or jail time, or as a condition of parole or other jail or prison term releases. During probation, the probationee (person on probation) is supervised by a probation officer, allowed to serve probation at home, and given conditions of probation that must be met or probation can revoked. Probation places the probationee into the custody of a probation officer.

Prosecuting attorneys push probation as an easy alternative, but it is not. Probation should not be taken lightly.

As Chris Van Wagner says, "Being on probation is like being married to someone, but being married to someone you did not pick, you do not like, and yet you cannot divorce."

Probation Rules - Conditions of Probation

Probation is intended to restrict a person's liberties. A court can order a person to serve a term of probation for many years, as well as extend an existing probation order. A court can also (and usually does) order an entire list of conditions or rules that one must abide by while on probation.

While conditions of probation are entirely at the court's discretion, the conditions should be relevant to the crime. Whenever unreasonable probationary conditions are imposed, your criminal defense attorney can help you. Examples of typical probationary conditions are listed below.

  • Fines. In addition to the fines imposed by a court for a criminal conviction, a probation officer is paid a fee to watch the person who is on probation. Those fees must be paid to the officer each month. A failure to pay the fees usually results in a revocation of probation.
  • Curfews. For example, a probation condition or probation officer may require the person on probation to be at home at a certain time each day.
  • Work. Probationary conditions can include required work hours, as well as the number of hours that a person must work each week.
  • Residence. Probation conditions can restrict where a person lives, and in the instances where a person has been convicted of a sexual offense, the conditions can include the distance that a person's residence is from a school or other places where children gather.
  • Friends. A court can order a condition of probation that prohibits a person on probation from hanging out with certain friends.
  • Decorations. For example, a probation officer may refuse to allow a person who is on probation for a sex offense to decorate for Halloween.

Probation Officer's Limits (Or Rights)

A probation officer has few limits on his authority to direct the behavior and actions of a person whom he supervises under probation rules. A probation officer can revoke freedom and order a person who is on probation into jail for weekends or evenings or until a court hearing for revocation of probation. A probation officer can make life very miserable, mandate curfew times, change curfew times, and restrict friends without court intervention.

In addition to placing restrictions on the life of the person placed on probation, probation also restricts the lives of the people with whom the person on probation lives. A probation officer can visit you at his or her whim, without notice, and without a reason. The probation officer can then search your entire home whether you have a roommate or live alone. If the probation officer finds evidence of a violation to probation, regardless of whether it is your marijuana roach or a roommate's half empty bottle of beer haphazardly left in your room, the probation officer can take action including ordering the person on probation back to jail.

In all instances, a probation officer will be the key witness at any revocation hearing, and play a key role in any alternative to revocation that may be offered or ordered by a court.

Initial consultation

If you are facing probation, it may help to know these facts: no criminal defense attorney can or should make you any promises about the outcome of your case, but by hiring the experienced and well regarding lawyers at Van Wagner & Wood, you can reassured that you have done all you can to help your defense.

If you are seeking to hire an attorney, please consider taking a few minutes to consult with one of the criminal defense attorneys -- Chris Van Wagner or Tracey Wood -- at Van Wagner & Wood. In addition to providing you with an estimate of the costs of your defense, these lawyers will give you a professional straight-forward brief "first-impression" analysis of the case against you so that you may consider your next move; they'll help you understand your legal rights and the restrictions that a probation sentence will place upon you; and they'll explain possible alternatives available to you. The initial consultation is free to people seeking to hire an attorney to represent themselves or another person.

Call ( in the Madison area, or statewide) today to speak with one of the attorneys at Van Wagner & Wood for a brief but professional free first-impression analysis of your case. You can also send your case information online, or email the attorneys.