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Probation vs. Parole. What is the Difference?

When you read about the penalties that an individual convicted of a crime can face, you might come across a few unfamiliar terms. You know what incarceration means and what fines are, but can you accurately describe what the term “probation” means? What about “parole?” It can be easy to mix these terms up and become confused. Both refer to alternatives to incarceration, but probation refers to a period of supervision imposed in place of a prison sentence and parole refers to a period of supervision following an individual’s early release from prison.

If you are facing any charge that can result in probation or incarceration with the potential for parole, speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to determine exactly which penalties you are realistically facing. Often, a charge has a range of penalties, but the details of the case are what determine which of these penalties are imposed on the defendant if he or she is convicted.


Probation is a period of supervision by an assigned officer, generally one to three years, during which the convicted individual must comply with specific requirements. These requirements depend on the nature of his or her offense and may include any or a few of the following:

  • Regular drug testing;
  • Regular appearances in court;
  • The completion of a rehabilitation or education program;
  • Regular meetings with his or her probation officer;
  • Payment of fines or restitution; and
  • Community service.

Further, an individual on probation may be prohibited from associating with certain individuals or from leaving the state while he or she is under supervision. Violation of the terms of one’s probation can result in incarceration, an increased probation term, or other penalties.


Parole has a lot in common with probation. Like probation, parole is a period of supervision. Instead of being imposed in place of incarceration, parole often follows a period of incarceration. Also like with probation, an individual on parole is required to comply with certain requirements, which are enforced by his or her parole officer. These requirements are often similar to those imposed on individuals on probation and may also include the requirement that the individual reside in a halfway house for a specified period of time to help him or her adjust to life outside a correctional facility. Often, the length of one’s parole term is the remainder of his or her jail sentence. In other words, if an individual is sentenced to four years in jail, then released after three years, his or her parole term will last one year.

Work with a Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing any type of criminal charge, you need to start working with an experienced Miami criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to develop a legal strategy to defend yourself against that charge. The right legal strategy can mean the difference between a jail sentence and a probation term. To learn more about the specific penalties you may face with your charge, speak with a member of our team at Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC. Contact our firm today to set up your initial consultation with us.

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