What's The Difference Between Parole & Probation?

Daren Brown
By Daren Brown | March 18, 2019

handcuffs-man-hands-brick-wall.jpgIf you find yourself confused about the differences between parole and probation, you are not alone. These two legal terms confuse many people.

In fact, they do have some similarities. Probation is an alternative to incarceration and parole is a supervised release from prison.

Yet there are some important distinctions between the two. Let's take a close look at what these two legal terms really mean.

Definition Of Probation

Probation occurs before and sometimes in place of jail/prison time. When one receives probation rather than going directly to jail or prison, the judge provides him with an opportunity to show he is willing to rehabilitate himself. The individual is given probation, and the judge will find him guilty and suspend his sentence during probation.

Alternatively, the individual can be given probation without the judge providing a predetermined sentence. If the defendant complies with the judge's instructions, he won't be sent to prison following the sentence.


Definition Of Parole

Parole is best defined as an individual's release from prison prior to his scheduled release. The defendant faces plenty of the same controls as probation.

Parole conditions often include mandating that the defendant reside in a halfway house and stay current on fine payments along with other financial obligations. He reports to a parole officer who describes the parole rules and expectations for the defendant.

The defendant's progress is subsequently monitored. If he fails to adhere to the conditions of parole, the parole officer can file a parole board report. The parole board can then order the defendant to return to prison to complete the remainder of his sentence.

Similarities Between Parole And Probation

The individual in question is supervised when on parole or probation. Furthermore, it is expected that he will adhere to specific guidelines and rules. These guidelines are referred to as conditions for parole/probation.

In both instances, the individual must submit to a search without warrant even if there is no probable cause.

Differences Between Parole And Probation

Though parole and probation processes have their similarities, there are important differences between the two. The conditions of parole and probation are unique.

An individual on probation is subjected to the jurisdiction of the court. The judge is empowered to alter the probation conditions as he sees fit. Changes occur by way of an order that alters the defendant's conditions.

Parole alterations rarely result from a court order. The parole board typically sets the parole conditions. These conditions apply to all defendants.

Alterations to such conditions or procedures are dictated by the parole board or parole officer. Such changes are known as “administrative proceedings” rather than “criminal proceedings.”

This is a key distinction as the defendant is provided with additional constitutional and state protections in criminal cases as opposed to administrative hearings.

Probation And Parole Violations

When criminals violate the terms of probation, they are once again sentenced to jail for incarceration. When an individual violates the condition of his parole, he is forced back to jail according to the terms of the initial sentence. This means a violation of probation usually spurs a sentencing to an entirely new jail term.

This jail term is the result of the offense of violating the probation terms. Violating parole triggers the criminal's return to jail to serve the remainder of his original prison term.

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Topics: Criminal, Federal Criminal