What’s the difference between probation and parole?

As criminal defense attorneys, we know as much as anyone people make mistakes. Breaking the law in Alabama comes with penalties you must face, but if this is your first offense you might not know the options courts have for those penalties.

Probation, parole, and post-release supervision are all options that can either be applied in place of prison time, or in addition to prison time. So, what are the differences between each?

Probation in Alabama

You receive probation when the courts decide your sentence can be served in the community under certain conditions. This is used in place of a prison sentence, but you will need to maintain certain standards to avoid a probation violation and prevent your probation from being revoked.

If you’re on probation, you will have a set of probation terms you must follow. These terms often extend beyond just laws and are overseen by your probation officer. For instance, you will often be banned from using any drugs or alcohol while on probation, even if the consumption is considered legal.

A violation of probation does not immediately mean you will report to prison, but you will need to attend a probation hearing to determine the next steps for your sentence. The severity of your violation could lead to you spending the remaining term of your probation in prison.

We do want to note that you do have rights as a citizen out on probation in Alabama that are worthy of protection.

Parole in Alabama

If you’re given parole, this means you will either serve a portion of your sentence in the community after an initial prison sentence. You may be eligible for parole prior to the end of your prison sentence depending on what the judge decides.

If you are eligible for parole prior to the entirety of your prison sentence, you will face the parole board to petition for your release. The board will consider several factors, including but not limited to good behavior, remorse for your actions, physical and mental health, changes in state laws, and the case you personally present to them. You can hire an attorney to handle your case in front of the parole board.

If you’re successfully released on parole, you will need to follow the terms of your release similar to anyone out on probation. You will report to a parole officer. A parole officer is similar to a probation officer, but their role will be more involved as they generally have lower caseloads and more time to focus on each individual case.

A violation of parole is more likely to result in you returning to prison than a similar violation of probation because your initial crime is considered more severe. If you are returned to prison, your parole may be entirely revoked or you may have to go through the parole process all over again. If this happens to you, you will need to once again state your case to the parole board.

The right criminal defense can make all the difference

If you are facing criminal charges, contact John M. Totten, P.C. today to get the representation you need! We are not here to judge you, we are here to help you.


John M. Totten