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Difference between parole and probation

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2017 | Criminal Defense |

The criminal justice system is fairly complex and often involves various terms and regulations that can be quite confusing to the average person. For instance, perhaps you’ve heard someone in Wisconsin refer to parole and probation interchangeably, as though they were the same things. If you, however, have some sort of background in law or have had prior experience navigating the system, you might be aware that these terms pertain to two very different conditions within the criminal justice process.

When a person faces charges for a crime, it can be very helpful if he or she does a little research, in order to gain a basic understanding of any number of phrases, words or laws that might come up in court. Depending on the details of a particular situation, parole and/or probation are terms that might be pertinent.


If you face charges of theft, assault, drunk driving or another alleged offense and then receive a conviction, the judge might determine it unnecessary to incarcerate you. In such circumstances, it is common for the court to order probation instead of jail time. The following facts provide information about this type of sentence:

  • It’s often seen as a type of self-rehabilitation, since all sentencing is meant not only to exact punishment but to rehabilitate the person who committed a crime.
  • Sometimes, the order for probation is as a sentence in lieu of prison.
  • Even when a sentence handed down includes prison, a judge can offer highly restricted probation conditions, allowing the person convicted to stay out of jail.
  • Any person who violates such terms may have to go to jail to serve his or her original sentence. Additional sentencing for the probation violation might also apply.

As with most situations, the court has the final say with regard to probation before judgment or modification of any existing terms of probation. Restrictions for serving probation instead of going to jail typically include things like curfews, drug testing, fines and mandated rehabilitative programs of various types.


The main difference between probation and parole is that the latter typically occurs after a convicted defendant has served time in prison. Here are the basics:

  • An incarcerated person may or may not be eligible for parole, depending on various factors such as the nature of the crime committed and personal behavior in jail.
  • Whereas probation is sometimes required after the fulfilling of a prison sentence, parole may be granted when only a portion of a jail sentence has been served.
  • A person on parole must regularly report to a law enforcement officer (known as a parole officer) assigned to his or her supervision.
  • A regulatory body known as a parole board determines conditions in particular cases and also decides what punishments correspond with parole violations.

It can be downright frightening facing charges in a Wisconsin court and hearing all sorts of things you may not fully understand. To alleviate stress and seek immediate clarification when you hear something without receiving a proper explanation, you may choose to act alongside experienced guidance from criminal defense attorneys.



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