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What Are the Major Differences Between Probation and Parole?



Before analyzing the major differences between probation and parole, it will be helpful to have a better understanding of their basic definitions. Then, from that foundation, we can explore the points of diversion between the two legal terms. So, what exactly is probation? And, what is parole?

Probation Is a Form of Criminal Sentence Without Serving Time

Probation is a type of criminal sentence that permits the offender to remain in the community setting in lieu of serving time in a jail environment. The defendant remains free so long as the terms of the probation are being met. Conditions of probation might include reporting to a probation officer on a regular schedule; refraining from the use or abuse of alcohol and/or drugs; maintaining regular employment or continuing with schooling; not changing a residence without advanced notice and permission; and not committing a criminal offense while on probation. The particular conditions of probation may vary widely from one defendant to another depending on the offense committed, the offender's criminal history, the presence of victims and how they were harmed, and other specific facts and circumstances.

Parole Is the Early Supervised Release from Jail

Parole, on the other hand, is the supervised release of an inmate from a jail sentence. The prisoner is released from jail into the community before the natural conclusion of the original jail term as sentenced. The conditions of parole are similar to those imposed under probation, including regular reporting to an assigned parole officer.

What Happens if an Offender Violates Conditions of Probation or Parole?

When criminal offenders violate the terms of their probation, it is likely they will be resentenced to jail for a period of incarceration. When offenders violate the conditions of their parole, they are usually sent back to jail under the terms of their original sentence. So, a violation of probation often results in the sentencing to a new jail term for the offense of violating the terms of probation, while a violation of parole warrants the return to jail for the remainder of the original prison term.

If you or someone you know has questions or concerns about parole and/or probation, or any criminal law matter, it is prudent to consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Time is likely of the essence in defending a criminal charge, raising a defense, and exploring the best legal options.