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What Is The Difference Between Parole And Probation?

If you are a fan of legal based movies and TV shows like law & order, you probably have heard the terms parole and probation thrown about. You may encounter these legal terms as part of the legal process if you are charged and convicted of a criminal offense. 

While the terms may be used almost interchangeably, the two significantly differ in their legal definition. This article takes an in-depth look into the two from their legal definition to which circumstances they are applicable.

What Is Parole?

A parole is a prisoner's conditional release from prison before the end of their prison sentence. Often, parole is granted to prisoners who have exhibited good behavior during their incarceration and have served the minimum time stipulated in their sentencing. 

Consider a situation where a judge sentences an offender to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years. After serving 30 years, the person appears in front of a parole board, which will look at their record while in jail for signs of good behavior. 

If the parole board can ascertain that the person is determined to turn their life around, they may be considered for parole. Getting out on parole does not mean you stop being held accountable for your crimes. It only means that you are allowed to serve the remaining part of your sentence out of prison while under monitoring by a parole officer. 

Often the parole board will set the conditions for release including not owning a firearm, avoiding certain places, reporting to their parole officer and avoiding getting into legal problems. In most cases, failure to live by the set terms can mean losing your freedom and completing the rest of your sentence in jail.

What Is Probation

Probation is closely related to parole, but unlike parole, you do not serve any prison time. The best definition of probation would be a period of monitoring and supervision imposed on a convicted offender that has not been committed to serving jail time. It is an alternative to incarceration for low-risk offenders who may have a better chance of rehabilitation. 

Like parole, probation allows the convicted offender to live within the community while still being held accountable for their actions. It comes with conditions depending on the nature of the crimes the person was convicted of. 

Some of the most common conditions set for persons on probation include reporting to their supervisor, avoiding contact with certain people, avoiding specific places, travel restrictions, and submitting to drug tests. 

The judge sets the duration and the conditions of the parole at sentencing, and violating those conditions could mean serving a sentence in jail.

The Main Differences between the Two

"The two options allow offenders to take accountability for their mistakes against society while out of prison. The difference is that probation requires the offender to serve a portion of their sentence in jail while probation doesn't," says Attorney Ryan McPhie of Grand Canyon Law Group.

Also, parole is applicable for almost all types of crimes, but probation is only available for minor crimes, for example, infractions. 

The system may be looking for the slightest opportunity to get you in jail. So you want to ensure that you stay away from anything that can put you in such situations.  Unfortunately, it may not be possible to avoid trouble altogether. If trouble finds you, ensure you have a lawyer looking out for your rights.

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