Houston Criminal Law Blog


Is There a Difference Between Probation and Parole?

Two of the most often confused terms in the court system are “probation” and “parole.” These are actually two different things that are used in completely different situations. Probation is a sentence that is handed down in lieu of confinement, while parole means being released before completing one’s sentence. The length of time for each one depends on the nature of the crime and the ability of the offender to be rehabilitated.

Probation Overview

Probation is given during a sentencing hearing, which occurs after a guilty verdict is rendered. In many cases, the crime is a relatively minor one, and it is determined that the offender is of no threat to society as a whole. In these cases, an individual can receive probation, which means he or she is monitored by a probation officer.

During the course of probation, offenders will need to check in with their probation officer on a regular basis. The officer may also make unannounced visits to the defendant’s residence or place of work. This is done in an effort to ensure the terms of probation are being adhered to. Some of the terms can include finding employment and abstaining from drugs and alcohol.

Parole Overview

During sentencing, a judge will usually determine how much of a prison sentence must be served before one is eligible for parole. When that time arrives, the offender may apply for parole providing he or she meets the criteria for doing so. After that, a parole hearing will be scheduled.

During a parole hearing, the defendant will make a plea to the parole board as to how he or she has been rehabilitated. If the committee feels the individual has been adequately rehabilitated, that person will then be conditionally released.

Restrictions Still Apply

After being sentenced to probation or parole, individuals are still restricted to certain activities. They cannot carry firearms and must often attend mandatory counseling sessions. Those who commit another crime violate the terms of their sentence and may be sent back to jail. Individuals who fail to meet with their probation or parole officer or do not adhere to any of the other terms may also be subject to jail time.

Jail time after revocation is different for probation and parole offenders. Those on parole will likely have to finish the rest of their prison sentence behind bars. People on probation will be returned to court and sentenced for their original crime, and this normally results in prison time as well.

For more information on the process of getting probation or parole, speak to The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100.

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