Probation vs. Parole: What is the Difference?

Posted by Raoul Severo | Nov 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

At least once in our lives, we have read a news article that captured our attention. Be it with ridiculous headlines that sound too good to be true or updates about a Hollywood actor turned criminal. If so, you have probably also seen legal terms that are too jargonistic for an ordinary civilian like you to understand. For instance, the sentence “the court granted the suspect probation” or “the notorious drug dealer is now on parole” are easily comprehended by lawyers; however, lay readers might be left scratching their heads wondering “what is a probation or parole, anyway?”


Probation is an alternative sentence given by the court to an offender who would otherwise be spending time in prison. This allows the offender to remain in the community but on limited or restricted actions. In other words, while the offender keeps his privilege of staying out of jail, there are some things that he cannot do by virtue of his probation, such as:

  • Committing any other violations;
  • Break the terms of the probation;
  • Disobey the conditions set by the judge;
  • Miss a scheduled court appearance;
  • Get arrested for committing another crime; and
  • Leave the state without informing the probation officer.

Likewise, there are things that the offender under probation is required to do that other members of the community are not necessarily obliged to, such as:

  • Attending a work rehabilitation program
  • Attend a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program if necessary;
  • Provide DNA sample if instructed;
  • Register as a sex offender if the underlying conviction was a sex crime;
  • Submit to drug testing;
  • Occasionally report to the probation officer;
  • Stay within a certain geographic location; and
  • Strictly adhere to court orders.

If you violate these conditions, there will be consequences. Please refer to our article which talks about probation violations for more information.

Meanwhile, there are different types of probations to be given by the court:

  • Informal probation - For misdemeanor cases
  • Formal probation - For felony cases
  • Supervised probation - Constantly monitored by a probation officer
  • Unsupervised probation - Is usually only monitored by the court and not by a probation officer


Parole is granted to an offender after serving part of his sentence. Usually, this is an option given to criminals who showed good behavior while inside the jail facility. If the court believes that the offender will no longer disrupt the community, then parole is likely granted to them. 

Just like probations, individuals on parole still have to observe certain rules, such as:

  • Avoiding criminal participation;
  • Refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages or drugs;
  • Always report to the parole officer.

If the offender disobeys any of these conditions, then the parole officer is obligated to file a report to the parole board. Depending on the facts of the report, the offender could be sent back to the jail facility.

Bottom Line

In a nutshell, probation is served before the offender even serves a part of his sentence because it is often substituted by probation. Whereas parole is served after the offender serves a part of his sentence. Nevertheless, both probations and paroles are alternatives to incarceration and have designated officers to supervise the detainee. 

The conditions that individuals under probation or parole are required to follow differ vastly depending on the circumstances of their prior convictions. For instance, a convict who also happens to be a drug addict may be mandated to attend drug rehabilitation programs. However, a child molester on parole may not receive the same condition, instead, he will be ordered to avoid playgrounds, schools, or other locations where children are usually seen.

Need Legal Assistance?

Perhaps you or a loved one is currently facing a charge and your chances of winning it are slim. If you're wondering how you could apply for a probation or a parole, you have come to the right place. With over 40 years of experience, we have fought vigorously for the rights and freedom of people like you. Our team of professional criminal defense lawyers makes sure that every client receives the due process of the law. If you have questions about probations or paroles, or whether or not you're eligible for these privileges, do not hesitate to give us a call. Our criminal defense attorneys are ready to assist you.

Send us a message! We'll get back to you ASAP

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