The decision of whether or not to sentence an individual
to probation usually begins with a meeting between a defendant and a
representative of the governing probation department. Depending on the age of
the accused, this can either be a standard probation department or a juvenile probation department.
The role of a juvenile probation department is often made
distinct by the idea that probation may be assigned to juvenile cases when it
should really not apply. Courts are apt to err on the side of caution, affording
first-time offenders and children at risk some leeway when it comes to
sentencing. For some petitions of the court, the individual before the
court may not be able to pay a fine; if a juvenile defendant, he or she may
have no income, although parents may be forced to intercede in this respect. If
an adult defendant, he or she may be unemployed and/or living in poverty.
Where available funds fail, though, work ethic may redeem
the candidate for probation. An officer of the probation department may appeal
to the judge for court-ordered sanctions in the form of community service. As
this benefits both the offender (for whom service replaces detention) and the
community, this is a viable and beneficial option.
In addition, a juvenile probation department might determine a change
in scenery is the best thing for a delinquent child and courts will order
enrollment of a child in a school with designs toward discipline and special
skill sets. Just the same, some probation sanctions may force the sanctioned to
remain at home, as in house arrest with electronic monitoring.