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What is the difference between probation and parole?


Often, the terms “probation” and “parole” are thought to mean the same thing. While they both refer to alternatives to jail time, they are different when it comes to when they are served and for what reasons.

Probation is a sentence that allows the guilty person to remain in the community instead of going to jail. Typically, when a judge sentences a person to probation, it comes with strict rules and conditions including community service, meeting with a probation officer, refraining from the use of illegal drugs and excessive alcohol and appearing in court upon request. Additional counseling, training and classes may also be part of the sentence.

The length of time a person serves probation is often up to the judge and the laws of the state the convicted person lives in. A probation sentence can last anywhere from 1 to 3 years, but can last much longer depending on the crime that was committed. For example, sex offense cases can include a sentence of probation for life.

If a person violates their probation by breaking any of the rules or conditions set forth at the time of sentencing, the probation officer can either give them a warning, or require them to attend a probation violation hearing. At the time of that hearing, if the judge determines that the convict violated his/her probation, they may face additional probation terms, fines and jail time.

Parole is granted to a person who is already in prison serving a sentence for crimes they were convicted of. The period of parole refers to the time after a person is released from prison.

Much like probation, when someone is paroled, they may be required to adhere to specific terms and conditions. Often, they are still required to meet with a parole officer and are given strict guidelines of what to avoid. The hope is that, with proper supervision, the parolee can reintegrate back into society and begin a new life.

As with probation, when a person breaks the conditions set forth in their parole, they can face additional charges and penalties. These could include probation and more prison time.

Whether you’re facing probation or parole, it’s important to know your rights and understand the penalties that come with violating the terms of your sentence. Contact Mesa Attorney Charlie Naegle for a consultation to discuss the terms and conditions of your probation or parole.

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