1. What is Probation?
  2. What are the rules for reporting to my probation officer?
  3. What should I bring to office appointments with my probation officer?
  4. Why do I have to sign a release?
  5. What does Administrative Probation mean?
  6. How do I pay fees and restitution assessed by the court?
  7. What happens if I violate my conditions of probation?
  8. What happens if I don't pay fees and restitution assessed by the court?
  9. What if I can't pay fees and restitution assessed by the court?
  10. How do I sign up for community service?
  11. What must I do if ordered to submit a DNA sample?
  12. May I move out of state?
  13. May I travel out of state while on probation?
  14. How can I obtain information from my probation case file?
  15. May the probation officer discuss my adult child’s probation status with me?
  16. I am a concerned citizen and would like to know if my neighbor is on probation?
  17. I am a victim of crime and the court ordered that the probationer stay away from me and have no contact.  What information am I allowed to have on the probationer? Will the probation officer contact me?
  18. The court has ordered me to submit to random testing.  How will I be tested?
  19. What do I do if I am arrested?
  20. How do I seal my record?

    If you have Probation-related questions, please forward them to AskProbation@jud.state.ma.us

What is Probation?

A sentence of Probation, sometimes referred to as community supervision, affords you an opportunity to remain in the community with specific conditions instead of being sentenced to jail or the house of correction. Being on probation allows you to work and be with your family and friends. A probation officer will be assigned to assist and monitor you during your time on probation.

Probation is also an opportunity for you to make positive changes in your life. Your conditions of probation are designed to help you address problems that are known to contribute to criminal behavior. Your probation officer can be very helpful by referring you to resources, answering questions, and guiding you in meeting the conditions of your probation.  If you comply with the Court's orders and the probation officer's instructions you will complete your probation successfully. However, if you violate the conditions or not follow your probation officer's instructions, your probation will be violated and a judge may sentence you to jail.


What are the rules for reporting to my probation officer?

The frequency and nature of contacts will depend on a variety of factors. Your probation officer will inform you of the day and time, and you are required to report.  If you have an emergency or illness that prevents you from reporting as directed, call and speak to your probation officer or their supervisor and get a new appointment.  Your probation officer may also visit you at your home or place of employment. These field visits must be conducted as part of the supervision process and it is not their intent to embarrass you or create problems for you or your family.  If you have any specific concerns about field visits, you should share them with your probation officer beforehand.


What should I bring to office appointments with my probation officer?

You must provide verification of: employment (a pay stub), residence (a lease, copy of a utility bill, etc.), community service hours, counseling or program attendance, all drug prescriptions, documentation of any medical condition, immigration registration, and any other documents requested by your probation officer.


Why do I have to sign a release?

Releases of information are required so that the probation officer can verify your attendance and completion of any court ordered treatment program(s).


What does Administrative Probation mean?

The Judge may have ordered you placed on a term of Administrative Probation supervision. Administrative Probation is a non-reporting status under Adult Probation.  You have a probation officer assigned to monitor compliance with any court orders and you must contact the probation officer to report any change in employment or residence and to request permission to travel out of state.  You may be permitted to mail in verification of community service hours, verification of any required program(s), and payments of restitution and fees. If you are notified to report in person, you are expected to follow the instructions to report.  If you fail to follow any of your conditions your case will be returned to court for a violation hearing.


How do I pay fees and restitution assessed by the court?

Generally, all court ordered fees and restitution payments are made at the Clerk's Office of the sentencing court. Payment must be made with cash, certified bank check or money order. Some courts are now accepting payment by credit card. You will be provided with a receipt for each payment you make. Please save your receipts.  Payment plans may also be available with the Judge's approval. Please speak with your probation officer for more information.


What happens if I violate my conditions of probation?

If you do not follow the conditions of your probation, your probation officer is required by the court to take action. This action may include requesting a warrant for your arrest, the judge requiring you to return to court to add more conditions to your probation, or your probation could be revoked. If your probation is revoked, the judge may sentence you to the house of correction or jail.  Remember, your probation officer has been assigned to help you follow the conditions of your probation. He/she is available to assist you with any problems and refer you to community resources for aid in dealing with your problems. A probation officer is also responsible to the court and helps protect the community. The probation officer cannot excuse you from any of your conditions (such as reporting, making payments, completing community service, drug testing, etc.) - only the court has this authority.


What happens if I don't pay fees and restitution assessed by the court?

The obligation to pay fees and/or restitution is not to be taken lightly. Failure to pay is a violation of your probation conditions and could result in the court finding you in violation. The court may sentence you to the house of correction or jail.


What if I can't pay fees and restitution assessed by the court?

Some court fees may be converted to community service hours and you may be permitted to perform community service in lieu of payment. Restitution cannot be worked off and must be paid.


How do I sign up for community service?

The Trial Court Community Service Program operates from the Community Corrections Centers around the state. They accept referrals from probation officers and have regularly scheduled hours to assist you in completing your community service obligation.  If you are unable to participate in the Trial Court Community Service Program, your probation officer may refer you to a non-profit agency or organization in the community that is seeking assistance from volunteers.  You may also perform community service at a non-profit agency or organization of your choice with the prior approval of your probation officer and with verification of your hours.


What must I do if ordered to submit a DNA sample?

If you have been adjudicated or convicted of an offense that is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, you have a duty to provide a DNA sample through the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory. Refusal to provide the required sample is a violation of your probation in addition to being a separate criminal offense punishable by a fine of not more than $1000.00 or imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than six months or both.  It is your responsibility to contact the MA State Police Crime Laboratory at: 1- 888-877-4362 to schedule the date, time and location of the facility where the sample will be taken.  Costs for the procedure will be billed directly to you. Once paid, a receipt will be issued which must be shown to your probation officer.


May I move out of state?

Yes provided you have received permission from your probation officer. Your probation officer will explain the process and what is required for the transfer of your probation supervision to the new state.  The Interstate Commission for Adult Supervision (ICAOS) can be found on the web (www.adultcompact.org).  There is a similar system for transfer of juvenile probation. For detailed information click on the section, “How can I transfer my supervision?”


May I travel out of state while on probation?

Permission may be granted provided you are in compliance with the court imposed conditions of your probation, have received permission from your probation officer and a travel permit has been issued. Travel permits may be issued for up to fourteen days.


How can I obtain information from my probation case file?

You will need to meet with your probation officer and indicate the information you are requesting.  You will need to sign a release, the documents will be reviewed by the Chief Probation Officer who may be required to redact (certain parts of the file before they are produced to you.


May the probation officer discuss my adult child’s probation status with me?

If the probationer is eighteen years or older, Probation officers cannot discuss the status of a probationer with family members, friends or spouse unless the probationer signs a release and allows for a status report.


I am a concerned citizen and would like to know if my neighbor is on probation?

Probation officers cannot release any information to the neighbor, even whether or not a person is currently on probation.  


I am a victim of crime and the court ordered that the probationer stay away from me and have no contact.  What information am I allowed to have on the probationer? Will the probation officer contact me?

Yes, the supervising probation officer will contact you asking if you wish to be contacted on a monthly basis.  Contact may be by email, letter or phone call at your request.  The supervising probation officer will tell you whether or not the probationer is in compliance with the court orders or will provide notification if the probationer moves to another location.  


The court has ordered me to submit to random testing.  How will I be tested?

Probation officers conduct testing in two different ways.  Urine testing is used to test for illegal drugs while breath tests are used to test for alcohol.  Failure to submit to the testing or a positive test result can result in a violation of probation.


What do I do if I am arrested?

If you are arrested, charged with any offense, or have any police contact, contact your probation officer immediately. If you are unable to speak directly with your probation officer, ask for a supervisor.


How do I seal my record?

If you are an adult with a record of non-conviction, you may file a petition to seal in the court in which the case was held. The judge will conduct the hearing to determine whether, in his or her discretion, the record should be sealed.

If you have a juvenile record, you may file a petition with the Commissioner of Probation. The petition will be granted if a period of three years has elapsed since the end of the Juvenile Court involvement, including court supervision, probation, commitment or parole; and the person has had no adjudications of delinquency or youthful offender, or adult convictions, within the three-year waiting period.

If you have adult conviction records, you may file a petition with the Commissioner of Probation. If the record is a conviction for a misdemeanor offense, the petition will be granted if a period of five years has elapsed; or if the record is a conviction for a felony, a period of ten years has elapsed, including any period of incarceration; and the person has had no intervening convictions within the relevant waiting period.  In addition, section 100A contains certain exceptions:  

Sealing is not available for convictions under G.L. chapters 268 and 268A, or under sections 121 through 131H of chapter 140; and

Sex offenses, as defined by G.L. c. 6, section 178C, are not eligible for sealing for fifteen years following disposition, including termination of supervision, probation or incarceration, or for so long as the person has a duty to register in Massachusetts or any other state in which the person resides, or would be under such a duty if residing in Massachusetts, whichever is longer.  In addition, any sex offender who has ever been classified as a level 2 or level 3 sex offender pursuant to c. 6, sec. 178K, is not be eligible for sealing of sex offenses; and

Violations of restraining orders issued pursuant to G.L. chapters 209A or 258E are treated as felonies for purposes of sealing, pursuant to section 100A.