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Q: This may seem like a stupid question but my son called me from out of state and told me that he had gotten a DUI charge and they had him plead guilty to the charge. He said they gave him probation. What exactly does that mean?
A: Probation is a term commonly used in criminal courts. Probation is a type of punishment/sentence for a criminal act. How it generally works is that a person will commit a crime and then get charged with that crime. One of four things will happen shortly thereafter, 1) they will plead guilty to the crime, 2) they will be found guilty by a court after a trial, 3) they will be acquitted or the crime, or 4) the charges will be dismissed. If the person is found guilty or pleads guilty, either through their own admission or through a trial and finding of guilt, the judge will sentence them to a punishment for their crime. The judge can sentence them to jail, probation, or some combination of the both. If the person is convicted of a less serious crime and the judge wants the defendant to not actually go to jail he/she will sentence them to a jail sentence but suspend the sentence and put them on probation. The judge will then give them some probation terms or conditions. If the defendant that is granted probation follows the terms of the probation until the probation term expires then they can keep themselves out of jail. If the person does not follow the terms of the probation then the state will file a motion to revoke the probation and that person will have to answer to the judge as to why they didn't follow the terms of the probation and the judge may or may not put them in jail at that time. If you have further questions contact a criminal defense lawyer.