What are some of the key factors that affect someone being granted probation?
The most important factors that are considered when a judge is deciding whether to give someone probation are the nature of the crime committed and the background of the person involved. Basically, the more serious the crime, the less likely one is to receive probation. There are typically statutes that specify which crimes may not result in a sentence as light as probation. Judges will also consider the background of the defendant. Someone who has previously led a law-abiding and productive life is much more likely to get probation than someone who has a criminal record and no solid record of being an asset to the community.
There are three key factors that can affect the probability of a criminal defendant being granted probation: severity of the crime, background of the offender, and the court's opinion of the risk the offender poses to themselves or society.
Severity of the crime refers to the actual crime the offender is being accused of in court. While all crimes demand a punishment, some carry a lesser punishment. Offenders accused of crimes that do not include physical violence toward another person or animal are more likely to be granted probation as a punishment. Society views violent crimes among the most heinous one can commit, so they typically carry the harshest penalties, making probation an unlikely option for courts.
The background of the offender is taken into account when determining eligibility for probation or any other punishment other than incarceration. First time offenders are more likely to be granted probation than those who have shown a pattern of offending. Other factors in an offender's background that can affect the decision to grant probation is the existence or absence of a support system such as family, and attachments to the community such as a job and a home. An offender that has family in the community to promote positive behavior, a job, and a home has a better chance of being selected for probation than someone missing any or all of these elements.
While the background looks into the past of the offender, a risk assessment attempts to predict the future in a way. The courts must look at factors in the background, including mental health, propensity for violence, and the support system around the offender to determine whether they pose a significant risk to themselves or society. If an offender is determined to pose a risk to harm themselves or others, they are unlikely to be granted probation, even if the other major considerations point to probation being an effective punishment.