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Understanding the Difference Between Probation and Parole

Getting arrested can be frightening and confusing. There are several potential outcomes from sentencing and it is important to understand what exactly is taking place and what is expected of you. Two terms which occasionally are not correctly understood, especially by first time offenders, are “probation” and “parole.”
A person is given probation rather than being sentenced directly to prison or jail. Sometimes referred to as a “suspended sentence,” probation is an assigned period of time when someone convicted of a crime is given a chance to show that they are dedicated to rehabilitating themselves without having to serve time in prison. A judge provides terms of probation which usually include a set of rules involving elements such as curfews, drug testing, participation in rehab programs, and more.
A probation officer who keeps records on the rehabilitation process is assigned to each person on probation. If terms of probation are violated or the judge is otherwise not pleased with the way the defendant is progressing, the judge can order another sentencing and the defendant will be forced to spend time in a prison. On the other hand, if the defendant progresses well during the period of probation, which can be from one to five years, he or she can avoid prison or may be given a new sentence depending on the crime. Although terms of probation could be modified by the judge during the probationary period, that rarely if ever occurs.
Parole is the time after a person is released from jail prior to the completion of his or her sentence—usually as a result of good behavior in prison—and is meant to help him or her reintegrate back into society. A parolee is assigned a parole officer who helps to monitor their behavior and makes sure that the terms of parole are being honored. Terms of parole are often very similar to terms of probation and can include drug testing, paying fines, and staying in a halfway house. If the parole officer determines that the defendant is not meeting the terms of parole a report is filed with the parole board. Taking into account the defendant’s behavior, the parole board may then order the defendant to return to prison for the rest of their sentence. As with probation, a judge can amend the terms of parole by issuing a court order.
There are many similarities between parole and probation, but parole takes place after some time has been served whereas probation is assigned instead of serving time. Knowing and understanding the terms of probation and parole is essential as violations can lead to time (or more time) in jail.
If you have been charged with any crime, and you may need to pursue probation or parole, call the Greg McCollum Complete Legal Defense Team for a consultation so you understand your rights and what is expected of you!

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