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What Is the Difference between Parole and Probation?

If you have never been involved in the criminal justice system before, you may not understand the differences between parole and probation or even realize that they are different. However, if you are convicted of a crime and are sentenced to prison time and/or probation, you should understand what “parole” and “probation” mean and how they may affect your case.

What Is Parole?

Parole is the system in which a prisoner is released early from jail or prison, at the direction of the parole board, after having served a significant portion of their sentence. The individual is allowed to serve the remainder of their jail or prison sentence back in the community under the supervision of a parole officer.

Individuals on parole are required to follow various conditions while under parole supervision, such as reporting to their parole officer on a regular basis, maintaining employment, refraining from drug/alcohol use, and not being arrested for any new criminal offenses. Individuals on parole may also be subject to random drug/alcohol screens and searches of their home or vehicle, even if the parole officer does not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe the parolee has violated the conditions of their parole.

What Is Probation?

Probation is a type of penalty that someone convicted of a crime may receive as a sentence. When an individual is on probation, they’re allowed to live and work in the community under supervision. Probation lasts for a set term determined by the court. Probation is usually ordered in lieu of requiring a defendant to undergo a jail or prison term, although in some cases a term of probation may be added to be served after a defendant finishes serving a term of incarceration.

Individuals on probation must follow various conditions set by the court as part of their sentence of probation, such as keeping a job, performing community service, abiding by a curfew, or refraining from drugs and alcohol or criminal activity. Individuals on probation are also required to regularly report to probation officers.

In Texas, defendants may be eligible for a certain type of probation known as “deferred adjudication.” Deferred adjudication differs from normal probation in that once a defendant successfully completes a term of normal probation, their conviction permanently remains on their record. However, a defendant who successfully completes a deferred adjudication will have their criminal charge administratively dismissed. They also may later be eligible to have the records of that charge expunged.

Are the Conditions of Parole and Probation Different?

The conditions that an individual may receive for parole or for probation can differ depending on the individual’s circumstances. Although parole and probation often have many of the same basic conditions, parole boards or sentencing courts may impose other conditions that address a defendant’s individual circumstances, such as if the defendant has drug or alcohol addiction, or they have a personal connection to the victim of their crime, or if they are deemed to be at risk of reoffending.

Are Parole and Probation Served at the Same Time?

If a defendant was sentenced to both a jail or prison term and a term of probation, if the defendant later receives parole from jail or prison, they typically must finish serving out their term of incarceration while on parole before they can begin serving their term of probation.

What Are the Consequences of Violating Parole or Probation?

The consequences of violating parole or probation can vary from a mere warning from the parole or probation officers, up to the revocation of parole or probation and the imposition of incarceration.

If a parolee violates the conditions of their parole, they can be arrested and brought before the parole board. If the parole board finds that the parolee violated the conditions of parole, they are typically returned to jail or prison to serve out the rest of their jail time from their original sentence. Depending on the circumstances of the violation, the parole board may also vacate the time that the parolee spent on parole, effectively requiring them to serve the sentence that was remaining at the time they were released on parole.

If an individual on probation violates the terms set forth by the court during sentencing, they also can be charged with the crime of violating the conditions of probation. If convicted, they may be sentenced to an additional or extended term of probation, or they may be sentenced to a term of incarceration in jail or prison.

Contact Us for Help with Your Parole or Probation Term

If you have been paroled or put on probation or if you are facing a criminal sentence that may involve parole or probation, call the Collin County criminal defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian at (972) 369-0577 today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn how our experienced criminal defense lawyers can help with your case.