Probation vs. Parole: What’s the Difference?

person in handcuffs

Different Approaches to the Same Goal

You may have heard the terms “probation” and “parole” following your arrest, and often, people don’t understand the differences between the two. While probation and parole are both alternatives to incarceration, their procedures are quite different.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Probation refers to adult offenders whom courts place on supervision in the community through a probation agency, generally in lieu of incarceration … Parole refers to criminal offenders who are conditionally released from prison to serve the remaining portion of their sentence in the community.”

In other words, probation is an integral part of your sentencing hearing and can replace jail time. A judge may also require you to serve some time in prison before being eligible for probation. Either way, a judge decides probation at your sentencing hearing, which occurs before you suffer jail time. Your terms of probation may include participation in community service and treatment programs, paying fines and restitution, reporting to a probation officer daily, and restrictions on possessing a weapon, tobacco and alcohol.

Parole, on the other hand, is determined by a parole board after you served a certain amount of jail time. You can look at it as a privilege and reward for proving your ability to function in society. Factors such as your behavior in prison, type of offense, risk-level designation, participation in treatment programs, etc. can make you eligible for parole. This essentially grants you an early release from prison under certain conditions.

Thus, the main difference between probation and parole lies in procedural differences. A judge determines probation at your sentencing hearing before you serve your sentence, while a parole board determines your parole eligibility after you spend a certain amount of time in prison.

Our criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Brian C. Andritch can skillfully negotiate your sentence to include probation or parole so you can spend less time behind bars and more time being in your community under certain terms and conditions.

Contact us at (559) 484-2112 to schedule your free consultation and discuss a plan of action for your criminal case.

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