What is the difference between parole and probation?

Differences between parole and probation

Understanding Probation

If you have been convicted of a crime, probation is a sentence which allows you to remain free in the community instead of serving time in jail or prison. Probation, however, is contingent on whether or not you are able and willing to meet the terms of your probation. For example, the terms of your probation may require you to refrain from using drugs or alcohol, to report to your probation officer at specified times, maintain employment or attend school, to remain in your current residence, to submit to random drug or alcohol testing and/or refrain from committing any other type of criminal offenses.

The type of requirements for probation will be determined by the court and will vary for each defendant. Before outlining the conditions for probation the court will review your criminal record, the types of offenses committed, and whether other victims were harmed.

Understanding Parole

Unlike probation, which allows you to avoid a jail or prison sentence, parole is a conditional release from prison available to certain inmates after they have served a portion of their sentence with good behavior or they have completed the required jail or prison sentence.

Probation is considered a "supervised release program." The conditions for parole, however, are similar to those imposed under probation. For example, if you are paroled the court can require you maintain employment, avoid alcohol and drugs, refrain from committing other criminal offenses, submit to random drug and alcohol testing, wear an electronic monitoring device, attend counseling sessions and report to your parole officer at specified intervals.

What if I violate my probation?

If you violate the terms of your probation, under some conditions, you may be given the maximum prison term for your underlying offense. Although your probation officer may address the court and give recommendations for your sentencing, the judge who hears your case will make the decision. The judge will also review other factors of your case such as whether you have a criminal history and the seriousness of your original criminal charges. If you have violated your probation you may not have a right to a jury trial, but you do have the right to have legal counsel present at your probation hearing.

What if I violate my parole?

If you violate your parole and you cannot disprove the alleged violation or prove the violation was not serious enough to warrant parole revocation, you will be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of your sentence. The judge, however, does (generally) have the right to impose less severe penalties, such as stricter supervision requirements, and you may avoid prison.

If you have violated your parole you will not have the right to a jury trial during the parole revocation proceedings. You do, however, have the right to hire a defense lawyer to present evidence and cross examine witnesses. You will also have the right to testify in your own defense.

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