Q: My cousin just moved in with me and it turns out he is on probation. Will that affect me or my job? Is there anything I can do to help him stay out of jail?

A: These are great questions and you could find yourself in this particular situation any time you are attempting to help a family member get back on track. To better understand the question it is best to start with what probation actually means.

Probation literally means the testing of behavior or abilities. In a legal sense an offender on probation is ordered to follow certain conditions set forth by the court, often under the supervision of a probation officer. Offenders are ordinarily required to refrain from certain actions or liberties, like the possession of firearms for example. Others may include being ordered to remain employed, abide by a curfew, live at a directed place, obey the order of the probation officer, and/or not leave the jurisdiction without approval of the probation officer.

There are several different types of supervision when dealing with probation: intensive probation, home detention and GPS monitoring. These are highly intrusive forms of probation in which the offender is very closely monitored, and it is common for violent criminals, higher-ranking gang members, habitual offenders, and sex offenders to be supervised at this level. Some jurisdictions require offenders under such supervision to waive their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment regarding search and seizure, and such probationers may be subject to unannounced home or workplace visits, surveillance, and the use of electronic monitoring or satellite tracking. GPS monitoring and home detention are common in juvenile cases, even if the underlying delinquency is minor.

In addition to the aforementioned types of probation supervision, two common types of supervision that are vastly used in the court system are summary probation and formal probation. Although they are both considered to be probation, the supervision of each is handled differently. Under summary probation offenders do not have a direct contact supervisor. Case in point, the probationer is expected to complete any conditions of the order without the involvement of an officer within the period of the sentence. Formal probation requires offenders to report to an officer, most commonly between bi-weekly and quarterly, and are subject to any other conditions as may have been ordered, such as alcohol/drug treatment, community service and so on.

In your case you would first want to find out what type of probation your cousin is on. This will help you to understand what type of search conditions he has. Probation searches may be conducted at your residence to make sure your cousin is in compliance. Probation searches are usually done by the local law enforcement agency along with a probation officer. Should the probationer be found in violation he may be placed under arrest.

There are ways to make sure your family members who may find themselves on probation stay on track. If the probationer is a juvenile you want to talk to him and make sure he understands the terms of his probation so he doesn’t violate them. It is important to know who his friends are, what they do and what types of places they frequent. Knowing his friends and their parents is very important and it is an indicator of what types of activities he will engage in. If his friends do well academically and participate in after school activities then there is a strong likelihood that he will do the same. If his friends do poorly in school, don’t participate in after school activities and are not monitored by their parents then this could be a sign that they are doing unproductive things and potentially getting themselves into trouble.

If the probationer is an adult, a family member who wants to help keep him in the right direction should inquire about his job, if he has one, or find out what type of activities he is involved in to stay busy and productive. Make sure he is checking in with his probation officer and keeping them informed and updated with information pertaining to his job, school and his place of residence. Not doing so could be a violation of his terms. Being on probation is an alternative to going in jail and in turn affords someone the opportunity to get back on track and become a productive member of our society.

This column was prepared by Neighborhood Resource Officer Marilyn Amiache (Beat 2: Lincoln Boulevard to Ocean Front Walk, Interstate 10 to Ozone Avenue). She can be reached at (424) 200-0682 or marilyn.amiache@smgov.net.

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