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Understanding the difference between parole and probation

Maryland residents who have been charged with a crime may be wondering about the definition of two important legal terms: probation and parole. Criminal defense attorneys know that these two concepts are very different, even though they both feature a form of supervised release. Understanding probation and parole rules can help you and your attorney identify the best strategies for defending your criminal case.

Probation and parole may sound the same, but there are striking differences between these two programs. Probation is considered part of a criminal sentence. That is, when someone is sentenced in connection with a minor crime, he or she may be required to comply with some supervised release regulations. Probation is generally reserved for nonviolent, first-time offenders. These defendants are sentenced to suspended jail terms that will not be served unless the person violates the terms of probation. In general, these terms include checking in with a probation officer, along with attending drug and alcohol classes or other educational events.

Parole, on the other hand, is used to release convicts back into society after they have been incarcerated for some time. This type of supervised release is typically only granted after a parole board approves the convict's request for release. The board considers the nature of the defendant's crime, along with the support system available to that person on the outside. Like probation, those on parole must generally check in with a parole officer periodically. After completing the parole term, the sentence is discharged.

Whether you are facing probation or parole concerns, our criminal defense staff can help you make informed decisions about your legal case. Defendants often find that it is worthwhile to pursue probation and parole in an effort to avoid incarceration. Further, our legal team may be able to assist those who are facing revocation of either their probation or parole.

Source: Law Offices of Elling & Elling, "What is the difference between probation and parole?" Aug. 28, 2014

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