Formal Versus Informal Probation in Oregon

Formal probationers are supervised by a probation officer, while informal probationers are supervised by the court.

By , Attorney · Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Oregon has two types of probation: formal and informal. Formal probation is commonly known as "supervised" probation. Informal probation is referred to as "bench" or "court" probation.

Informal Probation

Informal probationers don't have a probation officer. Instead of checking in with a probation officer, informal probationers report directly to the court. Typically, a person on bench or court probation would only be required to report to the court when:

  • submitting proof of completion of probation requirements (such as community service hours, alcohol/drug treatment, mental health treatment, domestic violence treatment, or anger management classes)
  • making a payment to the court for fines and fees, or
  • moving to a new address.

Informal probation requires the defendant to pay a one-time fee of $100 to the court. A person on informal probation generally isn't subject to "interstate compact" laws (discussed below). So, transferring to another state is typically easier for informal probationers than it is for formal probationers.

Because informal probationers don't have probation officers checking up on them, they typically would receive a probation violation only if they are arrested for a crime while on probation or fail to complete a condition of probation like community service or drug treatment.

Formal Probation

Formal or supervised probation requires in-person check-ins with a probation officer on a regular basis. Typically, a person on formal probation is required to check in daily during the first part of probation. If the probationer has no violations for a period of time, the officer may reduce check-in to weekly or monthly. In some circumstances, a probationer may even be allowed to call the probation officer to satisfy the check-in requirement.

A person on supervised probation is usually required to pay a monthly fee. Some probation officers allow probationers to complete community service work to pay off outstanding fee balances.

A formal probationer is not free to transfer probation to a different state without going through interstate compact requirements. Interstate compact laws require the probationer to submit an application, pay a fee, and receive approval from Oregon and the receiving state before relocating.

After completion of probation requirements (such as community service and drug or mental health treatment), some judges will allow formal probationers with no violations to complete the balance of their probation term on informal probation.

Will Probation be Formal or Informal?

In felony cases, probation will almost always be formal. In misdemeanor cases, whether probation is formal or informal varies by county and a number of other factors. For example, some counties require any person convicted of a misdemeanor DUII to be placed on formal probation. Other counties don't use supervised probation for any misdemeanor offenses. But generally, if a condition of probation requires monitoring—such as drug or alcohol testing—probation will be formal.

Length of Probation

Probation lengths vary depending on the circumstances. For example, someone convicted of a minor crime might be placed on probation for as little as six months. But more serious crimes can lead to probation of several years or more.

Also, probation violations can extend the period of probation beyond what was originally ordered. And sometimes, probationers request additional probation time to pay fines and fees or complete treatment requirements.

However, in most circumstances, probation—whether formal or informal—can't exceed five years.

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