Parole and probation are two different things, but they are similar in that they involve monitoring your activities and following certain rules established by the court as an alternative to incarceration (or a return to incarceration). The consequences for breaking parole or probation may differ greatly according to state and the specific circumstances, ranging from a additional penalties and restrictions to jail time.
Let’s look at the differences between parole and probation, and discuss the possible consequences of violating each of them.
In effect, probation is a suspended jail sentence. When you’re convicted of a crime, the court may choose to put you on probation as an alternative to prison. During the time of your probation (usually 1-3 years), you’ll report regularly to a probation officer, and the court will lay out the conditions of your probation—specific things you must do, and specific things you must avoid. Examples might include:
- Fulfilling a certain amount of hours of community service
- Avoiding drug/alcohol use
- Avoiding certain people (particularly those involved with your crime)
- Submitting to random drug testing
- Not leaving the state without permission
- Reporting regularly to your probation officer, and appearing in court upon request
If you violate the terms of your probation, the consequences typically depend on the severity of the violation, as well as the number of violations. If you failed to report to your probation officer, for example, the first offense might simply result in a warning. However, repeated violations (or more severe violations, like committing another crime) will likely result in a court hearing to evaluate the violations, at which point stiffer penalties like additional probation time, additional community service, etc. may be assessed. If the court deems you untrustworthy to fulfill the terms of your probation, your probation may be revoked and you may be incarcerated to fulfill your sentence.
Parole is when you are released from prison before your full sentence has been served, usually for good behavior and on the promise of future good behavior. It is a time period of re-integration in which you are monitored and placed under conditions similar to those of probation; however, since you’ve already been incarcerated, the rules and monitoring may be a bit stricter. Examples of conditions of parole may include:
- Reporting regularly to your parole officer
- Maintaining steady employment, or continuing your education
- No possession of firearms or controlled substances
- Drug testing
- Submitting to search and seizure without the need for a warrant
Violating parole is obviously considered a serious offense, and often results in the revoking of parole and a return to prison to finish out your sentence. Depending on whether additional crimes were committed, the courts may also add to your prison term.
If you are being investigated for breaking parole or probation, it’s important that you have an experienced criminal lawyer representing your interests. Call the Federal Criminal Law Center at 404.633.3797.