In Colorado criminal cases, probation is a type of alternative sentencing in which you agree to abide by certain terms and conditions in exchange for not going to jail or for getting a reduced jail sentence. Probation may be supervised by a probation officer, or may be unsupervised – which means reporting directly to the court.
Most criminal defendants are eligible for alternative sentencing. In some cases, courts may agree to terminate probation early. And if the judge grants a deferred judgment, the defendant’s charge may be reduced or dismissed completely once the case ends.
Below our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss:
- 1. What is probation in Colorado?
- 2. Who is eligible?
- 3. Can I get probation for my DUI?
- 4. What is the difference between supervised and unsupervised probation?
- 5. How long does it last?
- 6. Can I get off probation early?
- 7. What happens if I violate the terms?
- 8. What happens when I complete the terms?
- 9. How do I find my probationary status?
- 10. Does Colorado accept transfers?
- 11. How much does being a probationer cost?
- 12. Are probation criminal records public?
- 13. Do POs come to my home?
- 14. Can POs search my house?
- 15. Can POs track my cell phone?
- 16. Can you look up someone’s PO?
- 17. How is it different from parole?
Probation is an alternative to incarceration in criminal cases. (However, certain charges require some jail time.)
Conditions of probation depend on the specific charge and vary case-to-case. Common conditions include some or all of the following:
- Reporting regularly and as scheduled to the assigned probation officer (PO) from the Colorado Probation Department;
- No further criminal activity;
- Suspended sentence;
- Submitting to searches by law enforcement
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs;
- Random drug testing;
- Counseling (such as for substance abuse, mental health, or anger management);
- No ownership or possession of firearms;
- Payment of victim restitution;
- Payment of supervision costs and any court-ordered fines;
- House arrest / home confinement;
- Electronic monitoring;
- Community service;
- Paying for supervision fees; and/or
- Compliance with a protective order (such as in cases involving domestic violence).
Counties offer various probation programs depending on the criminal charges. Examples include:
- Drug Court for people facing charges of drug possession (CRS 18-18-403.5);
- Domestic Violence Supervision for people facing DV-related offenses; or
- Economic Crime Supervision for people facing charges of petty theft (CRS 18-4-401(2)(b))1
Generally, defendants are eligible for probationary sentences unless either:
- The criminal offense conviction is for a class 1 felony or a civil infraction; or
- The defendant has two or more prior felony convictions arising out of separate episodes
Defendants typically ask for a probation sentence during the sentencing hearing. Otherwise, they can ask for alternative sentencing after serving part of their jail or prison sentence.
Judges commonly grant probationary sentences in DUI cases. There should be no jail if:
- The case is a DUI-first or DWAI-first; and
- The defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was below 0.20%
Otherwise, some jail will be mandatory:
Colorado drunk/drugged driving charge
Minimum jail with a probationary sentence
|First-time DUI or DWAI with a BAC of less than 0.20%||None|
|First-time DWAI with a BAC of 0.20% or more||2 days|
|First-time DUI with a BAC of 0.20% or more||5 days|
|Second-time DUI||10 days|
|Third-time DUI||60 days|
|Fourth-time DUI||90 days|
With supervised alternative sentencing, probationers report directly to their PO. With unsupervised alternative sentencing, probationers instead report straight to the court.
Therefore, unsupervised probation is more convenient. And defendants usually have to pay less fees as well.
Judges usually grant unsupervised probationary sentences to defendants convicted of the most minor offenses.
It varies by case. It is typically 3 months to 2 years. But it can be shorter or longer.
Probationers who have been compliant may be eligible for early release. Learn more about applying for early termination of probation in Colorado.
People who violate their probation terms may be arrested on a “no bond” warrant. Then they could be sent or returned to custody to serve out their original sentence.
The court will hold a revocation hearing. There, defendants may argue against having their alternative sentencing revoked. And the district attorney may argue to remand the defendant to jail. If the probation violation was minimal, the judge may consider giving the defendant a second chance and reinstating the probationary terms.
Upon successful completion of every condition of probation, the probationer is released from the supervision of the Colorado judicial system.
If the probationer was granted a deferred sentence, the charges may then be dismissed or reduced.
Depending on the county, it may be available on the court website. Otherwise, people can call the local probationary department for the latest information.
Look up Colorado courts by county.
Usually yes. Colorado participates in the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision. As part of this agreement, different states accommodate each other’s probationers. Learn more about transferring probationary sentences to or from Colorado.
Supervised alternative sentencing requires a $50 monthly fee. This is separate from any other fines, fees, and restitution the court may have ordered.
Yes, unless the defendant is a juvenile (under 18). People can contact the local probationary department or else look up the case on the court website.
Look up Colorado courts by county.
In some cases, yes. Sometimes these visits are scheduled. Other times POs show up without prior notice. And depending on the case, POs may conduct an alcohol or drug test on the probationer.
In cases without home visits, the probationer may be required to check in with the PO at the probationary department or by phone.
It varies by case, so defendants should discuss this with their attorneys. Typically, POs need “reasonable suspicion” that there may be contraband in the home in order to search it without a warrant.2 Contraband includes firearms or drugs.
Not unless the PO has a valid warrant or court order.
Yes, people can call the local probationary department to get a PO’s name. The only exception is for juvenile defendants (under 18) — that information remains confidential.
Parole and probationary sentences are both types of supervised release. They both have similar terms. And people who violate their terms face incarceration.
Judges usually grant terms of probationary sentences instead of jail. (Though in some cases, jail is still required.) Defendants in misdemeanor cases may get misdemeanor probation. And those in felony cases may get felony probation. In 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court held that courts may never sentence a defendant to both prison and probationary terms for the same case.3
In contrast, parole follows a prison sentence. Some inmates get released early on parole. And only people sentenced to felonies may be eligible for parole.
Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
In Nevada? Learn about probationary revocation in Nevada.