What the difference between probation and parole?

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What the difference between probation and parole?

Asked on February 18, 2013 under Criminal Law, Louisiana

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

In Louisiana, probation and parole are very similar and are often handled by the same agency, but the difference really boils down to timing. 

Probation is when a sentence is suspended and a person is allowed to avoid going to prison as long as they comply with certain conditions imposed by the court.  If they violate their conditions, then the court could revoke their probation and order the defendant to go serve their time.

Parole is when a person has already gone to prison and is being released early.  Essentially, it is a promise by the defendant to behave for the balance of their sentence in the free world. They will be allowed to remain in the free world as long as they continue to comply with any rules set out by their parole officer.  If they violate their conditions, their parole could be revoked and they could be sent back to prison.

If a defendant has a choice between prison time and probation, they should visit with a criminal defense attorney before making a final decision.  Even though it may seem simpler "just to sit the time out," the effect of each can be significantly different.  For example, certain first time offenders can obtain an automatic, limited pardon if they successfully complete their probation.  This option would not necessarily be available if they chose a prison sentence. 


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