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FAQQ. What is probation?  
A. Probation is a sentencing option for the court in the case of certain crimes. A sentence of probation is given instead of prison time. 

Q. What is the difference between probation and parole?
A. Probation is a sentence imposed by a criminal or family court at the time of adjudication or sentencing. Probation permits the offender to remain in the community under conditions specified by that court and requiring supervision by a probation officer.

In contrast, Parole is early release from incarceration for certain convicted prisoners. Parole is granted by a parole board. If granted parole, the parolee serves the remainder of his sentence back in the community under supervision of parole officers. Learn more about parole, which is a state not a county function.

Q. Is probation just a “slap-on-the wrist”?
A. No. Adults and juveniles placed on probation must obey the law, attend school or be suitably employed. They must report to their probation officer as directed and allow these officers to visit their homes. If directed, they must make restitution or complete community service.

Treatment is required for those with a history of drug, alcohol, sexual abuse, psychiatric or psychological problems.

Q. What kinds of offenses can lead to a sentencing of probation?
A. In criminal court the most common offenses committed by probationers are:

  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
  • Drugs (possession/sales) 
  • Larceny 
  • Assault (including domestic violence)
  • Theft 
  • Repeatedly driving without a license 
  • Fraud
  • Criminal mischief
  • Sex offenses
  • Possession of firearms
  • Burglary 
  • Robbery
  • Endangering the welfare of a child

In Family Court, adults are placed on probation for committing acts of domestic violence. Juveniles are placed on probation for committing an offense if committed by an adult would constitute a crime or after being found to be a Person in Need of Supervision due to a pattern of ungovernable behavior.

Q. What is restitution?
A. Restitution is monetary compensation paid to victims to reimburse them for loss, damage or injury as the result of a criminal act.

In Westchester County, the probation department is the designated collection and disbursement agency for restitution collected not only from probationers under our supervision, but from inmates in both local and state penitentiaries and from parolees. 

Q. Are there sex offenders on probation?
A. Yes. In Westchester County the majority of convicted sex offenders are sentenced to a term of probation. In view of this, the Department of Probation developed what has become a nationally recognized sex offender program that offers intensive supervision coupled with offense-specific treatment in an attempt to maximize community safety. 

The department supervises both convicted adult and juvenile sex offenders. A wide range of interventions are employed, such as on-site group therapy, off-site individual therapy, use of polygraph examination, computer forensics and surveillance to maximize community safety.

Q. Can probation help if:

  • I need to file for an order of protection in regard to a family offense?
  • I am having a problem with the behavior of my adolescent child?
  • I need Family Court's help with a custody or visitation matter?
  • I need to file a modification of my support order?

A. Yes.

Q. What happens if a probationer violates the terms of probation?
A. The probation officer has several options when the orders and conditions of probation are not followed. A series of graduated sanctions can be imposed, some examples are: more frequent contact with the probation officer, referrals for needed services, or the case can be returned to court.

If the probationer is found to have violated probation the judge may add time to the sentence or impose additional conditions. For adults, the judge may revoke the probation and impose a sentence of incarceration, and for juveniles, place the offender in a group home or residential treatment facility.

Q. What qualifications are required to become a probation officer?
A. Probation officers are college graduates appointed from a certified list of candidates who successfully passed the NYS Probation Officer Trainee Civil Service Exam. Current job openings and information about civil service examinations can be found on the county's Human Resources Web site.

Q. What is an ignition interlock? 

A. An Ignition Interlock is a device that, when installed in a motor vehicle, prevents a person from starting the engine, or in certain cases, from continuing to operate a motor vehicle after having consumed alcohol. The device records numerous activities via photo and data including:
  • Attempts to start the vehicle
  • The alcohol level of the individual at the time of starting the vehicle
  • The alcohol level at random intervals while the vehicle is running
  • Dates and times the vehicle is operated
  • Attempts to circumvent the vehicle's Interlock device

Q. Can you tell me if someone is on supervision; and, if so, may I speak with the supervising officer about violations of law or supervision conditions?
A. The fact that someone has been convicted of a crime is a matter of public record. However, access to Probation records is governed by New York State law and Office of Probation & Correctional Alternatives regulations. While the department is always able to receive information from the public about a probationer, the department may not able to divulge specific information about a probationer.

It should be noted that the department may not divulge information concerning individuals who have been adjudicated as youthful offenders in Criminal Court or as juveniles in Family Court.

Q. I have information about a probationer who is committing criminal activity. How should I report this information?
A. Consideration should always be given to reporting information on new crimes to the local police department. Any individual having information about a probationer may contact the general number, 914-995-3500. They will be directed to the appropriate staff person for receipt of the information.