One of the possible penalties that you will face if you are convicted of a criminal charge is being placed on probation. This is a way that you can avoid going to prison, as long as you comply with the terms of the program.
When you are placed on probation, the court will let you know the duration of the sentence. Typically, people are placed on probation from one to three years. Longer terms are possible, such as a person who is convicted of a sex crime and is required to remain on probation for life.
Each probationer has to comply with specific terms of probation. Some of these are universal, such as avoiding getting into any other legal trouble. Others are tailored to the individual's circumstances. For example, a person who is on probation for a drug crime might have to take drug tests. You should find out your exact requirements from your probation officer if you are placed on probation.
If you don't comply with the terms of probation, you can face a probation violation. This is a new criminal charge that will require you to face the judge. You can't resolve a probation violation through a jury trial, so these cases must be taken very seriously.
It is important to note that not all probation violations end with you standing before a judge. A probation officer usually has a wide berth for how these are handled. It could be as simple as the probation officer warning you not to get into trouble again. This is why it is important for you to be honest with your probation officer at all times.
Source: FindLaw, "Probation FAQ," accessed May 11, 2017