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Probation vs. Parole

by Lindsay Chambers

Probation and parole are two similar terms you might mistakenly use interchangeably, but they are not identical. The primary distinction is procedural. While probation allows someone to remain in their community after committing a crime, parole is a temporary or permanent release from jail after the inmate has already served part of their sentence. 

Probation in California

Court-ordered probation is a legal deferment of imprisonment that reduces or eliminates the time you might spend in custody. That means instead of getting arrested and sent to jail, you could return home after promising to maintain ethical conduct and not commit future crimes.

A judge or judicial officer may grant probation to a first-time, non-violent offender who agrees to abide by specific conditions. These might include doing community service, paying a fine or undergoing random drug and alcohol screenings to ensure you aren’t abusing these substances. 

If you are on probation, a court or probation officer will monitor you to ensure you do not violate the terms of your agreement. If you disobey or break the law, you will face a probation violation hearing. Here, a judge may decide to reinstate the existing probation, reaffirm it by changing its conditions or revoke your probation and send you to jail. 

Parole in California

The California Board of Parole Hearings may grant parole to an inmate who has served a portion of their time in state prison after committing a felony offense. California’s parole system is largely mandatory, which means the board must grant parole to eligible inmates once they have served their sentence. 

The board sets the conditions of this supervised release from jail after they deem an inmate is not a public safety risk, and that their stay in prison has sufficiently prepared them to reenter society. Typically, a parolee must agree to do things like:

  • Upholding the law 
  • Ensuring others’ safety 
  • Agreeing to remain within city or county limits
  • Consenting to police searches at any time, with or without a warrant or cause
  • Keeping scheduled appointments with their assigned parole officer 
  • Avoiding contact with specific people

If you refuse to sign an agreement to abide by the proposed conditions, the board will rescind its offer of parole. In this case, you will remain in prison a maximum of six more months.

How Long Does Parole Last?

If you are on parole, your supervision’s length depends on the crime you committed. Average terms are three to five years, though some are 10 or longer. People convicted of murder will typically be on parole for life; however, there are some exceptions to this rule. 

If your parole officer has reason to believe you have violated the terms of your parole agreement, they will investigate the allegations. After doing so, they will make one of two recommendations to the parole board:

  1. Allow you to remain on parole.
  2. Revoke parole and send you back to prison.

Choose Experienced Legal Representation

Whether you are on parole or probation, it is wise to adhere to all the stated terms of your agreement. It may even be possible to have a judge agree to modify your probation’s terms if you can demonstrate that your experience has changed you for the better. Once you complete your probation or parole period, you might seek to receive a governor’s pardon.

If you are facing charges in California, your top priority should be hiring a criminal defense attorney to give your case the respect it deserves. At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we have been skillfully representing clients in Orange County for more than 45 years. Contact us to learn what makes us one of the most successful and respected law firms in Southern California.

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