The Texas criminal justice system is complex, and it’s easy to mix up terms, or accidentally use them interchangeably. In particular, the legal terms “probation” and “parole” are often used incorrectly. While they have some similarities, they are not the same process.
Let’s take a look at the circumstances of probation and parole, and key differences between these two processes. We’ll also cover the consequences of a parole or probation violation, and what you can do to fight back.
Texas Probation Basics
Probation is court-ordered supervision that allows a defendant to remain in the community rather than serving his or her sentence in jail or prison.
A judge will give a probationer specific terms to follow for a designated period of time, which often include:
- Maintaining a job
- Abiding by a curfew
- Avoiding drug or alcohol use
- Completing community service
- Reporting to a probation officer
Essentially, probation is an opportunity for low-level offenders to prove to the court that they can rehabilitate themselves while living and working in the community by avoiding violations.
Texas Parole Basics
Parole is community supervision that is granted to an inmate that has already served time in jail or prison for a felony-level offense. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles usually grants parole when an offender has exhibited good behavior while in prison.
Once an inmate is released on parole, the parolee must report to an officer in the Texas Parole Division, who will lay out specific terms. These terms often include:
- Reporting to the parole officer
- Avoiding drug and alcohol use
- Not committing additional crimes
- Avoiding contact with other offenders
- Abiding by a curfew
Essentially, parole is early release from prison, and requires parolees to abide by strict community supervision guidelines in order to stay out of prison.
Key Similarities and Differences Between Parole and Probation
Although probation and parole are issued for different purposes, there are some similarities:
- Both are supervised by a local parole or probation officer where the defendant lives
- Revocation of parole or probation could require the defendant to serve the duration of the sentence behind bars
There are also some key differences between parole and probation:
- Parole is granted by the parole board for offenders already in jail or prison, while probation is granted by a jury or judge as an alternative to incarceration
- A probationer serves little or no jail time if the terms of probation are met, while a parolee has usually spent a substantial amount of time incarcerated prior to issuance of parole
- Probation is granted to offenders accused of misdemeanors or low-level felonies, while parole is given to convicted felons that have already completed a portion of their prison sentence.
Consequences of a Parole or Probation Violation in Texas
Probation and parole are different processes, granted under different circumstances. However, if you violate either, your freedom is in danger.
Depending on the severity of the violation and preferences of the supervising officer, the consequences can range from a written warning to revocation of parole or probation, which places the defendant behind bars.
Your attorney will advocate for the violation to be handled administratively, in which case your probation or parole will remain in effect, but you may face additional terms or an extension of the supervision period.
If your parole or probation officer feels that the violation is serious, he or she may file a petition for revocation, which triggers an arrest and violation hearing.
In this scenario, your attorney will make a case for your innocence, or make an argument to convince the judge that revocation is not necessary under the circumstances of the violation.
Although probation and parole are different, you must abide by their terms in order to stay out of jail or prison. If you’re hit with a violation, respond proactively with experienced representation.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.