Felony probation is an alternative to incarceration in Louisiana that allows offenders to serve their sentence under supervision within the community. This article discusses the rules and requirements of felony probation according to Louisiana law, highlighting the importance of understanding the intricacies of this alternative sentencing mechanism.

Am I Eligible for Probation in Louisiana?

Felony probation eligibility in Louisiana depends on several factors, including the nature of the offense, criminal history, and the offender’s ability to meet the conditions of probation. Generally, nonviolent first-time offenders are more likely to be granted probation. However, certain offenses, such as violent crimes, sex crimes, and serious drug trafficking, often carry mandatory prison sentences or restrictions on probation eligibility.  Recent changes in the law allow for third or fourth felony offenders to be placed onto probation for drug possession crimes.  But, typically, a third time felon is ineligible for felony probation.

What Types of Probation are Available in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, there are two types of felony probation:

  1. Active probation: This is the most common form of probation, requiring the offender to regularly report to a probation officer and comply with all conditions of probation. It is not uncommon for the offender and probation officer to be making numerous court appearances during the probationary period to ensure that the probationer is complying with the special conditions imposed by the court.
  2. Inactive probation: This is rarely imposed at the beginning of the probationary period as it allows the probationer to be unsupervised.  Typically, the court will only impose monetary conditions such as fines, court costs and restitution as the special probationary condition.  Probation is deemed to be satisfied upon fulfilling those conditions and refraining from new criminal conduct during the probationary period.  While inactive probation is uncommon for the entire probationary period, it is not uncommon for a court to convert a person’s supervisory status from active to inactive upon the passing of time with good conduct and completion of the court’s special probationary conditions.  

What Are the Common Probationary Conditions Imposed by the Court?

Probationers must comply with standard conditions, such as reporting to a probation officer, maintaining employment, and avoiding further criminal activity. One major condition is waiving your rights to warrantless searches of your home, car or person.  This means that the probation officer can come to your house unannounced and conduct a search if he feels the probationer may be using drugs or committing other illegal activities.  The second, and most obvious, standard condition is to refrain from criminal conduct.  It is not uncommon for probationers who are rearrested to have the court place a hold on them preventing them from bonding out on the new charge until the new case is concluded.

Special conditions may be imposed based on the specific offense, such as substance abuse treatment,  community service and restitution. It is my advice that the probationer complete the special conditions as expeditiously as possible.  The benefits for doing so can range from having to make fewer court appearances, converting to unsupervised probation or even an early successful termination for probation.

Violating probation terms can result in consequences, including revocation of probation and possible incarceration. 

Probation Officer Responsibilities

Probation officers in Louisiana play a crucial role in supervising probationers, ensuring compliance with probation conditions, and providing resources for rehabilitation. They work closely with other law enforcement agencies to monitor probationers and maintain public safety.  They will require the probationer to file a monthly report with their office and pay monthly supervision fees.  In many jurisdictions, the probation officer will collect any outstanding fines and restitution.  At the beginning of the probationary term they will travel to the probationers home to verify residence and conduct a search for illicit items.  They will repeat this process a few times during the probationary period to ensure compliance.  Lastly, probation officers regularly appear in court to provide the sentencing judge with updates concerning the probationer’s compliance with the conditions imposed by the court.

The Probation Process in Louisiana

The probation process in Louisiana begins with a judge determining eligibility and ordering probation as part of the offender’s sentence. In most jurisdictions, the probationer is required to report to the probation office within 48 hours of sentencing.  In some court systems, the probation office has an intake division at the courthouse but in most parishes, the probation office is located offsite.  The initial intake meeting is simply a sign up process.  The probationer provides the office with the judgment of conviction and the commitment paperwork outlining the terms of supervision and provides the probation office with their demographic information.  Probationers are then assigned a probation officer who will monitor their compliance with the conditions set forth by the court and, as discussed above, will inspect the probationer’s home and require them to report each month to discuss compliance.

Benefits of Probation in Louisiana

Probation offers several benefits to both offenders and society. For offenders, it provides an opportunity to avoid imprisonment, access rehabilitation programs, and reintegrate into society. For society, probation reduces prison populations, potentially lowering costs and promoting rehabilitation.  Probation is literally an agreement or contract with the court in which the judge agrees not to jail the probationer for his criminal conduct provided that the probationer agree to do and not do certain things.  The probationer will avoid serving time in jail so long as he remains compliant with the conditions imposed by the court.

How Long Does Probation Last in Louisiana?

As a general rule, a person can only be placed onto felony probation for a maximum period of three years though certain probation eligible crimes of violence can have probationary terms upwards of five years.  Louisiana law also implies a minimum terms of one year for anyone placed onto felony probation.  That said, a probationer in good standing can have their probation terminated early after successfully completing their special conditions during their first year.  Also, in cases involving significant restitution, the court is allowed to extend the duration of probation to allow for the full payment of restitution.  However, if full repayment does not seem practical, the court con convert this financial condition into a stipulated civil money judgment. This allows for the victim to maintain a monetary recourse against the offender.

Common Probation Revocation Scenarios

Probation can be revoked for various reasons, including failed drug tests, new arrests or convictions, and absconding (failing to report to a probation officer or leaving the jurisdiction without permission).

Failed drug tests are one of the most common infractions people on probation incur.  When you think about it, a failed drug test is evidence that the probationer has engaged in unlawful criminal activity simply by purchasing narcotics.  Typically, a court will not revoke someone for an isolated failed drug test but may require they complete either in-patient or out-patient drug treatment as an added condition of probation. However, repeated failed drug screens may result in full or partial revocation of probation as it may be the only sanction left available to the court.

Getting re-arrested is a major reason for probation officers to seek revocation of a person’s probationary status.  As stated earlier, it is not uncommon for courts to have holds placed upon probationers upon getting a new arrest which will prevent them from bonding out of jail on the new charge.  It is customary for courts to defer revocation proceedings until the new arrest is adjudicated. However, the law does not require the court necessarily wait as it can hold a revocation hearing within a few weeks of the new arrest.  The burden to support revocation is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, rather it is “probable cause”- the same standard that governs preliminary hearings. 

Absconding is a third major basis for revocation.  Absconding can be as simple as not making your monthly reports but more often stems from the offender moving and not updating the probation officer of there whereabouts.  You simply can not move outside of the jurisdiction of the court.  You must have permission.  If you chose to relocate to another parish for work, you must notify the probation officer so they can transfer your supervision to an office within that parish.  Similarly, if you desire to pursue employment in another state you must go through the interstate compact process whereby you apply to the department of corrections for that state to see if they will accept your transfer.  If they do your probation will be supervised by that state.  Whether transferring to another parish or state, any violation will be handled by your original sentencing judge.

Understanding the Revocation Process in Louisiana

The revocation process begins with a notice of violation, which details the alleged probation violations. A revocation hearing is then held to determine if the probationer violated the terms of their probation. As discussed earlier, the court can convene an evidentiary hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the offender violated the terms and conditions of probation and, if so, what is the appropriate sanction. Consequences of revocation can range from modifying probation conditions to incarceration.

Courts can impose a “technical violation” for infractions deemed to be minor.  These violations require the offender serve 90 days in jail as punishment before being released back onto probation.

Typically, anyone convicted of a felony will have their probation revoked.  It is not uncommon for the sentencing court to run its time consecutive to the time required to be served for the revoked probationary sentence.


Felony probation in Louisiana serves as an alternative to incarceration that offers benefits such as avoiding imprisonment, rehabilitation opportunities, and reintegration into society. However, challenges such as limited resources and disproportionate impact on marginalized communities call for a reevaluation of probation practices and consideration of alternative approaches. The future of probation in Louisiana depends on addressing these challenges and ensuring that probation serves its intended purpose.

Andre Belanger