Parole vs Probation: Key Differences & What You Need to Know

If you are convicted of a criminal offense, either because you entered into a guilty plea agreement with the State or because you were found guilty at trial, you may end up spending some time on probation or parole. While people often use those terms interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Whether you are currently facing criminal charges or have already been sentenced, it is important to understand the similarities and differences between parole vs. probation.

parole vs probation with handcuffs and gavel

What Is Probation?

Probation is a sentencing alternative that can be used in lieu of, or in addition to, incarceration that allows someone who has been convicted of a crime to remain in the community under the supervision of a probation officer. Typically, a defendant is sentenced to a period of incarceration with some or all that time suspended under the condition that the defendant spends that time on probation. For example, you might be sentenced to spend 365 days in jail with 335 days suspended and 335 days on probation. In that case, you would spend 30 days in jail followed by 335 days on probation.

The judge presiding over the prosecution of your case is the one who sentences you to probation and that court retains jurisdiction over you while you are on probation. While on probation, you will be supervised by a probation officer and be required to abide by standard and special conditions. Standard conditions of probation apply to all probationers and include things such as maintaining employment, abstaining from drugs and alcohol, and reporting to your probation officer on a regular basis. Special conditions apply to you specifically based on your history and/or the facts of the case and include things such as abiding by a no-contact order, completing a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program, or paying restitution for damages.

What Is Parole?

Parole is not part of a defendant’s sentence. Instead, parole is a period of supervised release that follows a period of incarceration in the state or federal prison system. Parole is granted by the Parole Board, not by a judge, and allows an inmate to be released before finishing his/her entire sentence, but only after the inmate has served the applicable mandatory minimum sentence. The time remaining on the inmate’s sentence is then spent on parole. While on parole, the individual is subject to the jurisdiction of the Parole Board and is under the supervision of the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation (P&P). The conditions of parole are very similar to those of probation.

Parole vs Probation: What Happens If I Violate the Terms and Conditions of Parole or Probation?

One of the most important differences between probation and parole can be found in the procedures and consequences of a violation; although, a violation of probation or parole could result in a return to jail or prison.

Because the original sentencing court retains jurisdiction over you while you are on probation, an alleged violation of probation is addressed by that court. You have the right to have an attorney represent you at a probation violation hearing, a right you should exercise given what is at stake. If the judge finds that you did violate your probation, the judge may simply issue a warning, add additional time or conditions to your probation, or revoke your probation and order you to spend time in jail.

Parole violations are addressed by the Parole Board, the same people who granted you parole in the first place. The potential consequences of a parole violation are similar to those of a probation violation and may include a return to prison to finish out the remainder of your original sentence if the Parole Board deems the violation to be a serious one.

What Should I Do If I Am Facing a Parole or Probation Violation?

If you have formally been charged with violating probation or parole, or you have reason to believe you will be facing allegations of a violation in Las Vegas, it is in your best interest to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Vegas Lawyers right away by calling 702-707-7000 or contacting us online.