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What Is The Difference Between Parole And Probation?

When thinking about criminal conviction, you envision spending time in jail or prison. However, serving a sentence does not always involve incarceration — or, at least, not as much incarceration as you expect. Probation and parole are supervisory conditions within the criminal justice system that allow defendants convicted of crimes to serve time outside of jail or prison.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services provides guidance and supervision to individuals on probation and parole so they can meet release conditions and avoid incarceration or re-incarceration. 

The main difference between probation and parole is probation occurs before sentencing and parole occurs after sentencing. Often, as part of a plea bargain, your criminal defense attorney can negotiate probation in lieu of incarceration or negotiate split time, meaning time spent in a correctional facility along with time spent on probation. Misdemeanors and non-violent felonies are more likely to receive probation as part of sentencing. Also, keep in mind that with overcrowded prisons, courts favor probation whenever feasible.

Parole occurs after the defendant has spent time in prison and the parole board evaluates their behavior while still incarcerated. Good behavior and indications that the inmate can assimilate into the community without problems can result in early release from jail, which is what parole is.

The conditions of parole and probation are similar and may involve reporting to the parole or probation officer in person or by phone, submitting to drug tests and participation in rehabilitation programs, etc.

However, individuals under probation or parole who violate the conditions of their release face imprisonment as punishment. In the case of probation, the court may sentence individuals to a new jail term based on probation violations. By comparison, with parole, individuals are returned to jail to finish their sentences.

An experienced criminal law attorney can help you obtain probation or parole, and most defendants find both preferable to spending time in jail or prison.

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