Three ways to be placed on probation for a criminal offense

A defendant may be placed on probation for a criminal offense in one of three ways:

  1. The imposition of sentence is suspended, and the defendant is placed on probation.
  2. Sentence is imposed, but the execution of the sentence is suspended, and the defendant is placed on probation.
  3. The court sentences the defendant to probation.
Compare: supervised release

Probation is one means of supervising a criminal defendant. The federal Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 created another form of supervision that has the worst features of probation and parole: supervised release. Unlike parole, supervised release does not reduce a criminal defendant’s period of incarceration. Unlike probation, supervised release does not replace imprisonment.

There is no parole for federal sentences. A defendant must serve his full term, minus a fifteen-percent reduction for good time. However, once released, he must serve a period of supervised release, usually ranging from three to five years. Should the defendant violate the conditions of that release, he can be incarcerated again.