Q: Can I move if I'm on probation?
A: It's fairly common for people on probation to want to move to another state. Courts will often grant a request to move, especially if there's a good reason, such as a new job or to be closer to family.
The process varies from state to state, so your probation officer can best tell you how to get the process going. Often, it's simply a matter of filing a motion with the court requesting permission to move and asking that your probation be transferred to where you want to relocate. You'd be reporting to a probation officer in your new location, just as you do with your current probation officer. You'd also be expected to keep up with any payments you're obligated to make while on probation, as well as any "term" or "conditions" of probation, such as drug testing and keeping a job.
Your probation officer can also make a recommendation as to whether you need a lawyer to make your request to the court.
Q: Do I have to complete the entire probation time?
A: Generally, yes. Whether your probation officer can recommend an early end to your probation will depend heavily on state law. If you've done everything you were required to do when you were sentenced to probation, you can file a petition for an early release from probation.
Q: What's the point of a suspended sentence?
A "suspended sentence" is one that's imposed but not carried out. If you stay out of trouble, you don't have to serve the sentence. Judges often give first time offenders suspended sentences as an incentive for keeping out of trouble. It also frees up scarce jail space for more serious offenders. At the end of the suspension period, the judge lifts the sentence if you haven't gotten into trouble. But if you re-offend during your suspension period, you'll likely be sent to jail to serve the original sentence.
Q: What types of sentences are there?
The sentence you may get depends upon the seriousness of the crime. Possible sentences include:
Payment of a fine. This is the usual punishment for less-serious crimes (called "misdemeanors" or "infractions"), such as traffic tickets and theft of small amounts of money or goods, like shoplifting. You may, however, have to pay a fine and go to jail, in some cases
Time in jail or prison. This can range from a few days or months for misdemeanors, and several years for felonies, like armed robbery
Restitution, here you have to pay back what you took from the victim of your crime, or pay for the victim's hospital and medical bills
Probation is when you're not sent to jail or prison so long as you "play by the rules." Those rules (called "terms of probation") usually require that you don't commit any more crimes, get and keep a job, and make weekly visits to a probation officer. If you break one of the rules, the sentencing judge can impose the original sentence and send you to jail. Parole is similar. Here, you're released from jail early, provided that you follow your conditions of parole - again, like not committing another crime. If you do, you may be sent back to jail to finish your sentence
Alternative sentences. These include things like community service - where you have to pick-up trash along a highway, for example - house arrest, or the completion of drug and alcohol abuse program. These sentences are usually given to defendants who committed a misdemeanor or are first-time offenders
Death. This is the ultimate punishment, and it's reserved for the most serious crimes, like murder
These sentences may or may not apply in your case. For the most part, it depends on if you were convicted in state or federal court. For example, not all states have the death penalty, but it's a possible sentence for some federal crimes. Likewise, probation may not available in your state if you're a repeat offender.