When working with clients new to the criminal justice system or when speaking with family members of incarcerated clients or clients facing conviction, I am frequently asked about parole and probation. It is also common for current or prospective clients to seek my support after violating parole or probation. If you or someone you love is in a situation where learning about parole and probation in California may be beneficial, I hope the answers to the following frequently asked questions are helpful. Of course, I will be happy to discuss this and other topics as they relate specifically to your case during a personal consultation at my criminal defense offices in Los Angeles.
What is the difference between parole and probation?
Probation and parole are both alternatives to incarceration in which an individual is supervised by officers of the law and must adhere to certain guidelines. The goal of probation and parole is to make sure the community is protected from an offender while he or she is given the opportunity to rehabilitate.
Probation, according to California Penal Code 1203, is a way for a person to serve his or her sentence with little to no time spent incarcerated. Probation is part of the initial sentence imposed on a person by a judge in criminal court. In some cases, probation allows an individual the opportunity to pursue rehabilitation during a set period of time when his or her sentence is suspended. If the defendant abides by the rules of probation established by the judge, he or she may be able to avoid prison entirely.
Parole, on the other hand, is granted after a person has already served time in prison. Under California Penal Code 3000, parole is a supervised period of time after release from prison with the intention of “successful reintegration of the offender into society and to positive citizenship.” Defendants placed on parole will be required to report to a parole officer, and any failure to meet the standards set by the parole officer or new violations may lead to a hearing with a parole board and a possible return to prison. Parole is mandatory for most criminal sentences in California, unless the defendant is found to present a significant risk to public safety.
What if I violate probation?
If a person violates the terms of his or her probation, the violation is viewed by the court as a continuation of his or her original case. A technical probation violation is a direct violation of the rules established by the court/probation officer, such as failure of a drug test, missing a meeting with a probation officer, failure to pay fines, or having contact with known criminals. A new crime or offense is also seen as a probation violation but could result in a new criminal charge.
In some cases, penalties for probation violation may be at the discretion of a probation officer, and can range from a warning to orders to appear before a judge. Violations may result in a longer probation term, revocation of probation and jail time, additional fines, or other consequences.
What if I violate parole?
Terms of parole are often more stringent than probation terms, and may include registration as a sex offender or arsonist with local authorities, living in a specific area, not using the Internet, not associating with known criminals, submitting to random drug tests and warrantless searches, maintaining employment, or other requirements. If an offender is confirmed or suspected to have violated parole, his or her parole officer will investigate the alleged violations and make a recommendation to the parole board. Possible consequences of parole violation include arrest and revocation of parole and reincarceration.
Do I need a Probation or Parole Attorney?
If you have been charged with a crime and are facing possible jail time, probation may seem like a much more appealing option and a skilled attorney may be able to make that your reality. If you have already been sentenced to probation or parole and have violated the terms of your sentence, an attorney can represent you at probation or parole board hearings to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome for your situation. To learn more about how a criminal defense lawyer can help you, please contact us to schedule a consultation.