Probation & Parole What is the Difference?

Probation and parole are similar to each other in that they are both legal processes under which someone guilty of a criminal offense is released into the community under official supervision. However, probation and parole are very different from each other in every other respect. 


If you have a probation problem in the Tampa – St. Petersburg area, contact an experienced probation and probation violation defense law firm near you, Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law. 


What is Probation?  


Probation is a tool used by the criminal courts to maintain power over a person convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony. After a defendant either admits guilt or is found guilty after trial, the court imposes a sentence, partially to punish the defendant and partially to ensure they won’t repeat their offense. By being on probation, the person is free only if they abide by the terms of their probation. 


If they violate the terms of their probation, the probationer can be arrested immediately and held in custody until they are presented before the court to answer for the violation. The judge can impose up to the maximum sentence for the crime the defendant committed that resulted in their probation. 


What is Parole? 


Parole is the conditional release of a prison inmate who has completed a large enough portion of their full prison term to be eligible for early release. In 1983, Florida abolished parole for all prisoners except those convicted of capital felonies. Then in 1995, the Florida legislature abolished parole for capital felons as well. But anyone who committed their crime before the law was changed in 1983 is still eligible for parole.   


Because of Florida’s official policy disapproving of parole in principle, very few inmates are paroled. In the years between 2015 and 2020, only about two percent of parole-eligible prisoners were granted release on parole.  


Unlike release on probation, which is a sentence imposed by the court, parole is supervised and controlled by the Department of Corrections. In theory, a person who is out on parole is still considered to be in prison, but they are temporarily housed in the community. Even the slightest infraction can lead to the revocation of parole and the immediate return to prison for the inmate. They are legally entitled to a hearing at which they are informed of the evidence and permitted to respond in person. An alleged parole violator does not have the right to a lawyer. 


Who Is Eligible for Probation? 


Probation is an alternative to prison. Florida law permits a judge to order anyone convicted of an offense for which they could be incarcerated to impose a period of probation instead of part or all of the prison term.  This applies equally to misdemeanors and felonies. 


A prosecutor can recommend probation if an experienced criminal defense lawyer negotiates that result, or a judge can impose it on their own after considering all the facts and circumstances of the case.  


The factors that affect the judge’s decision whether to impose probation instead of jail include: 


  • the nature of the crime, 
  • injuries to a victim, if any, 
  • defendant’s record of prior arrests or convictions, 
  • defendant’s age, education, employment, family, health, special needs, 
  • motive (addiction, greed, hate, poverty, retribution, desperation, etc.), 
  • defendant’s role in the offense, 
  • victim input, 
  • defendant’s acceptance of responsibility, 
  • and others. 


Types of Probation in Florida? 


There are several types of probation to which a convicted defendant may be sentenced. They are each designed to fit the circumstances the judge decides best addresses the defendant’s danger to the community and the defendant’s need for supportive services. 


Administrative Probation (Unsupervised) — When the court considers all factors and decides the relative seriousness of the offense and the defendant’s character does not require any ongoing supervision, a defendant will be ordered to follow the terms of their probation without reporting to a probation officer. All other types of probation are supervised by an assigned probation officer. 


Community Supervised Probation — A defendant can be ordered to follow the terms of their probation with the obligation to report regularly to a probation officer who monitors their compliance with any special terms and conditions, like community service, counseling, or treatment. 


Drug Related Probation — Probation imposed in cases involving substance use disorder or drug addiction will include the requirement that the defendant participates in either a residential or an out-patient drug treatment and counseling program. The terms of drug probation will include both regular and random drug testing. Positive drug test results (dirty urine) can result in a violation notice and arrest. Typically, some leeway is extended because substance abuse recovery foresees occasional relapse. 


Sex Offender Probation — Defendants convicted of sex offenses are under some of the most restrictive conditions of probation. Because of the nature of the offense, these defendants are not permitted to be within a certain distance of schools, playgrounds, daycare facilities, and similar locations. They must report their current residence to the police and check in regularly.  


House Arrest (Home Confinement / Community Control) — House arrest is the most restrictive type of conditional release. One step short of prison, house arrest includes electronic monitoring of the convicted defendant’s whereabouts, continual oversight, and verification by probation officials. The person under house arrest must get permission to leave the house for approved purposes, must return within the allotted time, and must strictly comply with every condition.  


Violating Probation in Florida 


Violating probation in Florida does not require the commission of a new offense. Failing to follow any of the court-ordered conditions of your probation, or failure to comply with your probation officer’s meeting requirements can result in a warrant for your immediate arrest and incarceration until you are presented as a violator in court. 


Regardless of the nature of the violation, any allegation of probation violation that is sustained by the judge can lead to the imposition of the full sentence carried by the original crime. The judge can decide to return you to probation with no additional punishment, impose a portion of the prison sentence you escaped initially, or impose the entire prison term allowable under law.  


Only the presentation of an appropriate legal defense will protect an alleged probation violator from the consequences of the violation of notice. 



Tampa Probation Violations 


If you have violated your probation in Florida, contact Tampa’s experienced probation violation defense lawyers at Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at law. Call us today for a case review; 813-280-1244.  



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