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What Is the Difference Between Parole and Probation?

Comments Off on What Is the Difference Between Parole and Probation?

If you receive a criminal conviction, you may face penalties such as jail time, fines, community service, and mandatory rehabilitation programs. In some cases, the court may assign you to parole or probation, usually in lieu of imprisonment. Parole and probation may sound similar, but they refer to two different processes—especially in Washington state.

What Is Parole?

Parole refers to the conditional release of criminal offenders before their sentence is complete. Instead of spending the rest of the sentence in prison, these inmates receive the option to serve it in the community. Parole can come as a result of a parole board decision as well as applicable statutes.

A parolee will need to adhere to a series of parole conditions. He or she may be sent back to prison if he or she violates any of these terms, which may include the following.

  • Avoiding any criminal activity
  • Maintaining employment and a residence
  • Avoiding alcohol and/or drugs
  • Attending drug or alcohol recovery groups
  • Avoiding contact with victims
  • Staying within a certain geographic area
  • Reporting to the parole officer at specified times

What Is Probation?

Probation refers to the supervision of adult criminal offenders in the community. Generally, the state assigns a person to probation in lieu of imprisonment. In some cases, however, the court may assign an offender to probation after he or she serves a short-term prison sentence. The Washington State Department of Correction (DOC) will supervise the offender while he or she is serving his or her probation sentence.

Like parole, probation comes with a set of conditions that offenders will need to follow. Offenders will need to report to their probation officers at specified times and frequencies, depending on the terms of their release.

Additional probation requirements may include the following.

  • Avoiding contact with people who are engaged in criminal activity
  • Living at a residence approved by the probation officer
  • Not owning or possessing any weapons, such as firearms or ammunition
  • Staying within a specified geographic area
  • Answering questions from the probation officer truthfully
  • Working full time at a lawful employer
  • Notifying the probation officer within 72 hours of an arrest or police questioning

Differences Between Parole and Probation

Parole and probation seem like very similar processes. In fact, these options share many of the same terms, such as staying within a specific area and reporting regularly to a state-approved officer.  While probation is an alternative to jail, however, parole is an early release option for offenders who have already spent some time in prison.

It is important to note that Washington has not offered a parole option since 1984. The state abolished parole and continues to severely restrict the conditional release of inmates prior to the completion of their sentences. If you are arrested and convicted of a crime in Washington, the state will not offer parole to you. If the court believes it is appropriate, you may be placed on probation.

Facing criminal charges can be an overwhelming experience. In these situations, a criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate the process and advocate for your best possible outcome. Your lawyer can also explain the terms of your probation so that you can avoid penalties later on. Contact an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest to discuss your next steps.

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