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The Difference Between Probation and Parole

Todd Spodek, Esq. - 2/22/2013

What's the difference between probation and parole? If someone spent time in jail for a crime like animal abuse, before being released early, would that be classified as probation or parole? Would punishment be different for violators of probation and parole if they were caught with synthetic urine or another drug violation?

According to Askives, many people misuse those terms, so the following is an explanation and the difference between probation and parole in New York. Probation is a criminal sentence imposed by a Criminal Court or Supreme Court: Criminal Term Judge. Generally probationers (the individual on probation) are released back in the community. Occasionally an offender can received a sentence of both jail, and probation. Generally straight probation is available for first time non-violent offenders. Probationers are subject to the terms and conditions of probation. A man or woman on probation is far more restricted than normal citizens. These terms can include regularly contact with a probation officer on a weekly basis. The probationer must work, go to school, or be actively look for work. For certain type of offenders, terms can include required attendance at alcohol or drug treatment programs, educational classes, anger management and driving related classes. The length of probation and its terms are detailed in a probation contract and once the person has completed the terms of probation, he or she is free of court supervision.

Parole, meanwhile, is a portion of a correctional sentence served in the community after a term of incarceration in a New York state prison. When an offender serving an indeterminate sentence, the New York State Board of Parole makes decisions whether eligible state inmates are granted or denied parole. If the offender is serving a determinate prison term, then he or she is generally released after 6/7 of their sentence. This period of supervised release following incarcertaion for such offenders is known as “post release supervusion.” Parole or Post-Release Supervision is intended to assist offenders in intergrating back to socieity. The returning offenders are supervissed in the community by parole oficers. Keep in mind parole is a privilege, not a right.

The parole board will make the decision if the offender is ready to be released back to society and finish out the sentence on parole. The Parole board will consider the nature and seriousness of the crime, the views of the victim, the progress the offender made in prison, how crowded the prison is, and whether the offender has a someplace to go in the community. If parole is granted, the offender will have to abide by the terms and conditions (similar to those for probation) for a specified period of time. If he or she completes the parole period, the criminal sentence is discharged.

Revocation of Probation and Parole:

Both probation and parole can be revoked if the offender commits another crime or seriously violates one of the conditions of release. The revocation proceeding requires written notice to the offender, an opportunity to explain and call witnesses, an impartial decision-maker, and a written decision stating the reasons for revocation. If parole or probation is revoked, the offender goes back to prison and serves the remainder of his or her sentence in jail or prison.

Relief from Probation or Parole:

In some cases, early relief can be granted to an offender, and he may have to serve less time than originally required. This is not available in all jurisdictions, and where available, would require a criminal defense lawyer to file a motion in court to ask the judge to consider his client's special circumstances.

Todd Spodek is a New York criminal defense lawyer, focusing on drunk driving and felony matters.

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