Parole and Probation: How are They Similar and How are They Different?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jan 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

Probation and parole are similar topics that have a lot in common. However, there are some important differences between the two that make them distinct from each other. These nuances are essential to keep in mind and avoid a potentially dangerous misunderstanding.

Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento explains.

What is Parole?

Parole is a type of community supervision for people who have been convicted of a crime. Community supervision is when law enforcement monitors what an inmate is doing, without holding him or her in jail. Instead, they are out in the community.

While parole lets the defendant out of jail before their sentence has ended, people who are on parole still can't do everything that they want. Instead, they have to meet a laundry list of requirements and expectations.

What is Probation?

Probation is also a form of community supervision that comes in lieu of jail time for a criminal defendant. Probation also lets people who have been convicted of a crime to stay out of prison, so long as they satisfy a handful of other requirements, like regular check-ins with their probation officer.

How are Parole and Probation Similar?

Both parole and probation have numerous similarities. They are so similar, in fact, that it is easy for criminal defendants to confuse one with the other.

Some of the most important similarities between the two are:

  • They are both important topics of discussion for people who are facing criminal charges or who have been convicted
  • They both replace time spent in jail with a period of community supervision
  • They are both seen as preferable alternatives to jail

Because both probation and parole tend to come up in the same conversations and at around the same time in a criminal proceeding, and because they both kind of sound the same, it's easy to confuse the two.

That confusion can lead to misunderstandings and then some very bad decisions.

How Parole and Probation are Different

Perhaps the most important difference between parole and probation is a matter of timing: Probation replaces an entire jail sentence, while parole still requires the defendant to serve time.

This is the most important difference because many defendants can find themselves being offered multiple plea deals with a variety of probation or parole options.

For example, someone accused of aggravated assault could be facing a potential jail sentence of five years. Offered plea deals, though, could see those five years of jail time replaced either with 10 years of probation or with two years of parole.

While it sounds like the two years of parole is the better deal, that parole would only count for the last two years of the jail sentence. Taking that plea deal would result in three years being spent behind bars. The deal offering 10 years of probation would carry no jail time.

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento

Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who serves the accused in Philadelphia. Contact him online or call his law office at (215) 535-5353 to vigorously defend against a criminal allegation in the area.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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