Supervised probation is an alternative sentence to confinement in jail or prison and the imposition of fines. It allows people who have been convicted of a crime to avoid jail by agreeing to follow a strict set of rules or conditions for a period of time. Rules vary on a case-by-case basis and can include maintaining employment, obeying a curfew, and not violating the law again.

In some states, people convicted of minor offenses, such as traffic infractions, or misdemeanor crimes are offered an alternative to jail that is an additional option to supervised probation. This alternative is called “court supervision.”

What Is Court Supervision?

Court supervision is similar to supervised probation. The convicted person is allowed to remain free, going about their daily business, but they must abide by conditions that a judge imposes, such as:

  • Payment of fines;
  • Performing public service work;
  • Entering alcohol and/or drug treatment;
  • Entering counseling.

The exact conditions that the person must follow depends on the law of the state in which the person is sentenced, the offense of which they have been convicted and the circumstances surrounding the infraction or misdemeanor. It also depends on the law of the state in which they have been charged. In Illinois, which has true court supervision, the person avoids having a criminal conviction on their record, as explained below. This is not the case with supervised probation, which does result in a conviction.

Court supervision is similar to what is referred to as pre-trial diversion in some states. A pretrial diversion program operates in much the same way. It is an option for criminal defendants as an alternative to jail in certain states. The person who agrees to participate in a diversion program must meet certain conditions, such as attending a treatment program and paying court fees. Pre-trial diversion has the goal of promoting behavioral change through counseling within the community.

Pre-trial diversion programs are usually available to people who are facing their first criminal offense. The offense would have to be a relatively minor one, and there would have to be a diversion program available in the county in which the person is charged. If a person completes pre-trial diversion successfully, they would not have a criminal conviction on their record.

In many states, court supervision is very close to probation. Probation is a period of supervision of a person who has been convicted of crime. It is ordered by the court instead of a term of imprisonment. Probation usually comes with a suspended sentence; this means that the person is sentenced to imprisonment in jail or state prison, but the sentence is not carried out. The person is placed on probation, and if they complete probation successfully, they are never imprisoned.

If, however, the person violates some term of their probation, they can then be ordered to complete their term of imprisonment. In some states, probation also includes supervision of those conditionally released from prison on parole.

A person on probation is ordered to follow certain conditions set by the court, often under the supervision of a probation officer. During the period of probation, an offender faces the threat of being put in jail or prison if they disobey one or more of the conditions of their probation. They must also usually check in with a probation officer at regular intervals. If they violate a condition of probation, they may be ordered to attend a probation revocation hearing.

Not every state allows court supervision. California, for example, has four kinds of supervision, but they all come into play only after a person has been released from jail or prison. California has both probation and parole as part of its corrections, or prison, system. It recently added post-release supervision to this system: so-called “mandatory supervision” after release from jail and “post-release community supervision.”

In California, people convicted of nonviolent felonies may be released on mandatory supervision or post-release community supervision, after serving a state prison term. An agency of the county in which the perpetrator lives would supervise the person rather than the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which usually supervises former inmates on parole.

The state of Illinois has true court supervision as a system in which a person avoids a criminal conviction as well as a standard criminal sentence of imprisonment or imposition of a fine.

In Texas, the term “community supervision” appears to refer to probation and parole systems. Rather than “court supervision” in Texas, there are programs that provide supervision for people who have been found guilty of a crime in their communities. They are placed under community supervision instead of serving time in jail or prison. But they have been found guilty of a crime.

In Texas, when a person is found guilty of a crime and appears for sentencing, the judge chooses the length of time they must spend on probation and the conditions they must obey. A person can be put on active or inactive supervision. Active supervision means that the person must regularly meet with a probation officer. The conditions for active supervision can be more demanding than those for inactive supervision.

Parole in Texas and many other states is for people who have already served part or all of a term of imprisonment and have been released. People on parole serve the remainder of their sentence in the place they reside with conditions. They must obey the conditions to avoid being sent back to prison. The conditions are based on their criminal history and their past performance in terms of respecting conditions.

Do I Need to Plead Guilty to Receive This Type of Mandatory Supervision?

Court supervision is a creature of state law, so the features it has depends on the state in which the supervised person is sentenced. Generally, however, court supervision is not allowed if an individual pleads not guilty and is later found guilty after a trial. The person would have to plead guilty to obtain a sentence of court supervision.

Even though the person pleads guilty, however, in a court supervision situation, the court does not enter a judgment against the person. Technically, the person is not convicted of the crime to which they have pled guilty. After the prescribed period of court supervision, if the person complies with the terms of their supervision, the case is closed. A criminal conviction is not entered on their record. As explained below, however, there is a record of the fact that the person spent time under court supervision.

Will I Automatically Receive Court Supervision as My Sentence?

A judge presides at a criminal sentencing hearing and a sentence of court supervision is only pronounced at the discretion of the judge. That means that it is the judge’s decision, although, of course, the judge must conform the sentence to what is allowed by state law. If the judge believes that this alternative sentencing option is appropriate, they then assign court supervision to a person.

A person should not rely on the judge or the prosecutor to inform them that court supervision or pre-trial diversion is an option in their case. This is why a person wants to be represented by a criminal defense attorney. An attorney would know that court supervision or pre-trial diversion is an option for their client and ask for it from the judge.

What Happens If the Judge Grants Court Supervision?

In Illinois, if the court supervision is granted, the judge sets the rules, or conditions, of the court supervision that the person must obey. The conditions are imposed for a specific period of time, from a few months to two years. When the supervised person successfully completes the term of supervision, then the traffic infraction or misdemeanor with which they were charged is dismissed.

Will My Criminal Record Be Affected by the Completion of Court Supervision?

Once the court supervision has been satisfactorily completed, the judge withdraws the person’s guilty plea. The case is dismissed and no conviction appears on the person’s criminal record. There is a record of the fact that the person spent a period of time under court supervision, but it is less harmful than a record of a criminal conviction

Do I Need to Talk to a Lawyer about Court Supervision?

If you are interested in court supervision, you should talk to a criminal defense lawyer about whether it is an option in your state for a person in your situation. Your attorney can inform you as to whether court supervision or pre-trial diversion are alternative sentencing options in your state, what other options might be available to you and how you can go about making a case for your preferred sentencing option.