Embrace a New Beginning: Essential Probation Terms and Conditions Explained

Probation is a term that many of us have heard but might not fully understand. Instead of serving time in jail or prison, a person convicted of a crime can stay in the community through a legal arrangement called probation. Sounds simple enough, right? But there’s more to probation requirements than just avoiding a cell.

When someone is sentenced to probation, they must follow certain rules and guidelines, known as the “standard terms and conditions” of probation. These aren’t suggestions or friendly advice; they are legal obligations.

But what exactly are these standard terms and conditions? And why are they so important? In the following sections, we’ll delve into these vital questions, breaking down the conditions into groups and exploring each term. From living a crime-free lifestyle to understanding the supervision process, we’ll unpack what it means to be on probation. It’s about more than just staying out of trouble; it’s a chance for a new beginning, a “path forward,” if you will.

Standard Terms and Conditions: An Overview of Probation Requirements

Being on probation is not simply a “get out of jail free” card. It’s a structured, legally binding agreement that comes with a set of rules, known as the standard terms and conditions. These aren’t mere guidelines; they are mandatory rules that everyone on probation must follow.

Whether you are considering pleading guilty or are facing sentencing after a trial, it is important to know what probation will look like. The court has an option to use a standard form (pdf) and select conditions that you may have to follow.

Courts designed these conditions with several goals in mind. First, they aim to protect the community by ensuring that the individual on probation lives responsibly and lawfully. They offer support and structure for individuals to reenter society and avoid past behaviors.

The standard terms and conditions can be broadly grouped into three main categories:

Crime-Free Lifestyle:

The rules require you to follow the law, avoid illegal substances, and not have dangerous weapons.


These terms refer to the rehabilitation programs the individual must take part in, tailored to their unique needs. Treatment may involve substance abuse, mental health counseling, or anger management programs.

Probation Supervision:

The rules outline the supervisory authority that probation officers have on you. This includes requirements for reporting, work, and home visits.

Failure to follow any of these standard terms and conditions can have serious consequences, including a return to jail or prison. It’s not just a matter of doing what’s right; it’s a matter of legal responsibility. When you agree to probation, you agree to follow these rules and any others imposed by the court or your probation officer.

Crime-Free Lifestyle: Terms and Expectations

Being placed on probation carries with it a clear expectation to live within the boundaries of the law. The following requirements define the crime-free lifestyle one must adhere to during probation:

1. Abiding by All Laws:

Comply with all laws and inform your probation officer of any encounters with the police. 

If you’re under supervised probation, you must report all contact with law enforcement. This means if police stop you, even if you didn’t get a ticket, you have to tell your probation officer.

If you are charged with a crime, even a traffic offense, that may violate your probation. That’s why it’s important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible if you have even a traffic ticket while on probation. Accidentally admitting to violating your probation is something you don’t want to do.

2. No Harassment of Victims and Witnesses:

Anyone on probation is strictly prohibited from any harassment or intimidation of victims or witnesses related to the crime. Harassment can also be a separate crime, so violating this condition can compound your problems. You can face a probation violation, an extra charge, and a violation of a protection order if you are accused of harassing the complaining witness in your original case.

3. No Acting as a Confidential Informant:

Someone on probation cannot act as a confidential informant, as this can create legal complications. Since your probation requirements include not committing other crimes, it’s difficult to act as an informant to catch others who are.

4. Prohibition on Weapons or Dangerous Devices:

Possession or access to firearms, explosives, or other dangerous instruments is not allowed while on probation. If you must carry a firearm for your job, an experienced attorney can help you modify this requirement. There are specific rules which may let you keep your job while on probation, even if your employment requires you to carry a weapon.

5. Agreement to Searches:

While you are on probation, your right to privacy is diminished. If there are reasonable grounds to suspect you are violating your probation, then your probation officer can search your stuff. This includes consenting to searches of your residence, vehicle, or belongings, including electronic devices.

6. Restriction on Alcohol and Drugs:

When you are on probation, you are not allowed to get drunk or use recreational drugs. Specifically, alcohol consumption to excess or the possession and use of illegal drugs is prohibited. This term also governs the use of dangerous or abusable substances without a prescription.

The Colorado Supreme Court has clarified that the use of medical marijuana, with a doctor’s prescription, cannot be restricted when you are on probation. Some judges still tell defendants that they cannot use legally prescribed drugs, so it’s important to have an attorney to help you stay within the law if you have a medical marijuana card while on probation.

7. Compliance with Drug and Alcohol Testing:

Hand-in-hand with the prohibition on alcohol and drug use is the requirement for testing. While on probation, your probation officer may require you to submit to drug and alcohol testing. Failure to comply, or a failed test, may lead to additional legal consequences.

Treatment: Probation Requirements and Responsibilities

The probationary process often requires an individual to engage with specific treatments or programs tailored to their situation. These are not optional; they are mandated by the court and must be followed diligently. Probation is permitted to require evaluation and treatment when they feel like treatment is necessary to ensure that someone will be successful on probation. 

Sometimes the treatment can be negotiated and known prior to sentencing. This can happen when a defendant has started with a therapist after being charged with a crime, and the prosecution and judge agree that continuing treatment is the best way to remain successful. Other times, the prosecutor requests mental health evaluation and treatment as a condition of probation on a negotiated plea offer.

Here’s what you need to know about the treatment terms:

8. Participation in Treatment Programs:

The individual is required to actively participate in, cooperate with, and complete any referred or recommended programs. These programs may include, but are not limited to, placement in residential or outpatient programs, counseling, or treatment for drugs or alcohol, mental health, domestic violence, cognitive behavioral, offense-specific, or anger management.

The treatment terms are established to address underlying issues that may have contributed to the individual’s legal problems. These might include addiction, mental health challenges, or behavioral disorders.

It’s vital to understand that participation in these programs is not a suggestion or recommendation; it’s a requirement. The individual must sign any necessary releases of information and is typically responsible for the costs of treatment and services.

Non-compliance with these treatment terms can lead to further legal consequences and potentially compromise the probationary status. It’s a critical part of the process that demands attention, commitment, and responsibility.

Probation Supervision: Obligations and Compliance

The last part of the standard probation terms covers supervision. Probation supervision forms a critical part of the legal agreement that governs the probationary period. Here’s what’s involved:

9. Reporting to Probation Officer:

Regular reporting to the probation officer for appointments is mandatory, as directed by the court or probation office. There can be no exceptions or delays. Sometimes this means checking-in on an app or website once a day. It can also include in-person meetings and phone calls as required.

10. Notification of Changes:

Any changes in address, phone number, employment, or education status must be promptly communicated to the probation officer. Failure to do so can lead to complications, including a revocation of probation.

11. Maintaining Employment or Education:

Adults on probation have to be in school, have a job, or be looking for a job. There are some exceptions: for example, if you are a primary caregiver that likely qualifies as active employment, even if you are not paid monetarily.

12. Compliance with Additional Probation Requirements:

If probation officers feel it is necessary for your success on probation, they are permitted to impose additional requirements.

You have the opportunity to object to non-standard requirements within a very short period of time. Once the deadline for objecting to probation requirements has passed, persuading a judge to change the requirement becomes more challenging.

An attorney can help you ask the judge to modify your probation requirements. Reasons to modify the requirements include:

  1. A probation requirement is keeping you from holding or getting a job.
  2. The requirement is not necessary for your continued success on probation and is extraordinarily burdensome on you, in particular.
  3. There is no rational connection between the requirement and your conviction or continued success on probation.

13. Restrictions on Leaving Colorado:

You must obtain written permission from the court or probation officer before leaving the state of Colorado while on probation. Non-compliance with this term is a serious violation. An attorney may help you modify this requirement if your work requires travel out-of-state.

14. Waiver of Extradition if Convicted of a Felony:

If convicted of a felony, you must sign a waiver of extradition. This means signing a document that shows you will agree to be returned to Colorado if you are arrested in another state. 

15. DNA Sample Submission:

If you have been convicted of certain crimes, you will be required to submit (and pay for) a DNA sample. This sample will be analyzed and entered into Colorado’s DNA database.  

16. Sex Offender Registration:

If convicted of an offense involving unlawful sexual behavior, registration as a sex offender, as required by law, is mandatory. It is also a requirement of any imposed probation for these charges.


These terms define the structured relationship between the individual on probation and their supervising officer. Following them is not optional: it’s a legal obligation that must be met to maintain the probationary status and avoid jail or prison.

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