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The Difference Between Probation and Parole in Pennsylvania

Parole and probation often appear to be the same thing. Under both systems, the defendant serves a sentence outside of prison or jail. Both systems also require convicted defendants to adhere to the rules and conditions set by the court. However, parole and probation are two very different sentencing concepts. One, both, or neither may apply in your case.

Probation is a type of criminal sentencing in place of incarceration. Someone sentenced to probation will never see the inside of a jail or prison cell if they play their cards right. Parole allows convicted people to serve part of their sentence outside of jail or prison, but only after serving part of their sentence behind bars. The terms, conditions, and eligibility requirements for both sentencing options may vary from case to case.

If you are facing criminal charges and fear a conviction is imminent, you might be able to avoid incarceration. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can help you fight for sentencing alternatives so you can go home to your family. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free initial case evaluation.

How Is Probation Different from Parole in Pennsylvania?

Probation and parole are very similar in several key ways. Under both sentencing options, a convicted defendant can serve at least part of their sentence from home rather than prison or jail. Parolees and probationers must also abide by numerous conditions set by the court and the Parole Board of Pennsylvania. A violation of these conditions could result in serious consequences.

Even though they serve similar purposes, probation and parole are not the same things. Probation is a sentencing alternative typically imposed immediately after a defendant is found guilty. Probation allows the convicted defendant to serve their sentence from home rather than behind bars. The court may impose numerous conditions, such as a requirement to avoid criminal activity, drugs, and alcohol, and to maintain a job. If a probationer breaks these rules, they are in violation of their probation and may face harsh penalties.

Parole also allows a convicted defendant to serve their sentence from home, but only after serving part of the sentence in jail or prison. Parole is sort of like being released from jail or prison early. However, you are not simply released with no strings attached. You must follow terms and conditions set by the Board of Parole, which are similar to those set for probation. If you are facing criminal charges and fear the worst, contact our Montgomery County criminal defense attorneys for help.

When Are Probation and Parole Granted in Pennsylvania?

Probation and parole also differ in when and where they are granted or approved. Depending on what stage of your criminal trial you are in, we might be able to argue for probation in your case. If you have already been sentenced and have a possibility of parole, we can help you plead your case to the Parole Board when the time is right.

Probation is imposed at your sentencing after you have been found guilty. While you and your attorney can argue for probation at your sentencing hearing, the judge makes the final decision. You could also be granted probation as part of a plea deal or plea bargain. However, the judge must approve such a plea deal as the final decision regarding sentencing lies with them. In many cases, defendants choose to plead guilty in exchange for probation instead of risking incarceration after a full trial.

Parole is granted after you have already been convicted and sentenced to prison time. Precisely when you can be granted parole will depend on your initial sentence. The judge will decide how long you must wait until you are eligible for parole. This could be decided by statute, or the judge could use their own discretion. For example, if you are sentenced to 15 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 5 years, you must spend at least 5 years incarcerated before parole becomes possible.

Even when your chance for parole finally arrives, it is not guaranteed, and you could be denied. Depending on your circumstances, you might have another shot at parole at a later date. Our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers can help you argue for the most lenient sentence possible.

Eligibility for Parole or Probation in Pennsylvania

Parole and probation often have different eligibility requirements. These requirements can vary based on the crimes a defendant is charged with and whether the court is allowed any discretion on the matter. While judges are often permitted to consider multiple factors when deciding the issue of probation, some offenses are barred by statute from probation eligibility. Essentially, the statutes pertaining to your charges may specifically state that probation is not allowed. Our Pennsylvania probation and parole attorneys can help you argue your case before a judge or a Parole Board.

When deciding whether a defendant should receive a probation sentence, judges are permitted to weigh the mitigating and aggravating factors of the case. According to 42 Pa.C.S § 9722, the court may consider factors including, but not limited to, the violent or non-violent nature of the offense, whether the defendant intended serious harm, whether the defendant was provoked, any grounds that might excuse or even justify the defendant’s actions, whether the victim of the crime facilitated its commission, and the defendant’s criminal history. Probation also often requires that defendants are first-time offenders. If you have been convicted of a crime in the past, probation might be harder to obtain or even out of reach completely.

If a convicted person is eligible for parole after serving a portion of their sentence behind bars, their case goes before the Parole Board. According to 42 Pa.C.S. § 2154.5, the Board may consider multiple factors and exercise discretion like a judge at sentencing. However, the Board places a strong emphasis on public safety and victim safety. If the Board believes you are a danger to the public or are likely to go after your alleged victim, they will deny your parole. The Board can also consider whether you are willing and able to abide by the terms and conditions of your parole.

Conditions of Parole and Probation in Pennsylvania

In probation cases, the court may attach many different conditions to your probation. Oftentimes, these conditions are tailored to fit the needs of your case and prevent you from re-offending. Some conditions are present in the majority of cases, while others might be more unique. Failure to abide by these conditions could spell disaster.

While on probation, you must adhere to the conditions set by the court. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 9763, the court can attach conditions to your probation that include but are not limited to keeping a job, community service, counseling, drug or alcohol treatment, job training programs, giving up any firearms, restitution, and more. Any number of terms could apply in your case, and the judge will make efforts to tailor those conditions to your unique needs.

The conditions attached to parole are often very similar to those for probation. Community service, job requirements, and an aversion to criminal activity are all common elements of parole. However, parole is different than probation because the Parole Board can consider the behavior of the convicted defendant during their time in prison. For example, an inmate who participated in prison education, training, or treatment programs and avoided confrontation is more likely to be paroled. Our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can guide you through his process.

Penalties in Pennsylvania for Violating Your Parole or Probation

To make sure that probationers and parolees continue to follow the terms of their sentences, they are often assigned to an officer who checks up on them. Probation and parole officers regularly meet with their defendants. Most meetings are prescheduled and conducted in person or simply over the phone. However, probation and parole officers may make surprise visits. Officers have broad discretion to uncover any signs of violations. Probation and parole officers can conduct searches of your belongings to discover any evidence of a violation. If your officer notices you break the rules, they can re-arrest you.

When a defendant violates their probation, they can be arrested by their probation officer, taken back to court, and made to answer to a judge. You could potentially be arrested for the violation itself if it constitutes a separate crime. The judge can then adjust their probation sentence by adding more time or more conditions or revoking it entirely. If your probation is revoked, you must serve your sentence from prison instead of home. If your violation is considered a separate crime, you will be prosecuted for the new offense.

Parole violations are handled similarly to probation violations. In fact, many probation and parole officers work alongside each other. Parole is different than probation because you have already served time behind bars. If you violate your parole, you could be put back in prison to complete your sentence.

It is important to call our Pennsylvania probation and parole attorneys for help if you believe you have violated the terms in your case. Your probation or parole officer does not necessarily have to arrest you. They may have a certain level of discretion in this regard. If you accidentally committed a violation and your officer has not yet found out, we can get out in front of the issue and explain what happened to the officer. They could show leniency and help you take steps to prevent another violation in the future.

How Do I Argue for Parole or Probation in Pennsylvania?

Parole and probation are not guaranteed in any case. Even if you are eligible for probation or are allowed to seek parole after a certain period of time, you could be denied. The proceedings around these issues allow defendants to argue why they should be put on probation or paroled. You can typically have an attorney with you at these hearings to help you advocate for your best interests.

Probation is imposed at your sentencing hearing, which means you need an attorney with you while you are being sentenced. Many defendants do not realize that the arguments do not stop after the trial. Your sentence is not set in stone, and your attorney can help you argue for a more lenient punishment. Our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers can argue that you are not a threat and have a low risk of re-offending. We can also highlight any mitigating factors that would sway a judge to impose probation.

Parole works a little differently as your sentencing hearing has long since passed. Instead, we can help you argue that your good behavior while incarcerated indicates your rehabilitation. The Parole Board will be heavily concerned with public and victim safety issues, and we need to show them you are not a threat and should not be incarcerated any longer.

What Should I Do If I Am Denied Probation or Parole in Pennsylvania?

If you are denied probation or parole, there might still be hope for your case. The entire criminal justice process is very intimidating, and we often believe that the final decisions made by judges and other authority figures are unwavering. However, judges and members of the Parole Board are human beings capable of making mistakes. If you believe you were wrongfully denied or some legal error occurred, our Pennsylvania probation and parole attorneys can help you.

Probation is an aspect of sentencing, and much like many other aspects of your trial, it can be appealed. An appeal is when we take your case to a higher court to be reviewed for legal errors. Legal errors could consist of a misunderstanding of the law as applied by the judge or an abuse of power. We could argue for a new trial or re-sentencing under more appropriate guidelines at your appeal.

Your parole hearing is a little trickier. It is possible to challenge your parole denial through an administrative appeal designed specifically for parole issues. Our request for an administrative appeal must be made within 30 days of your denial. We can submit claims we wish the Board to consider with more accuracy, brevity, clearness, and specificity. At issue is the presence of any errors of law or evidence.

Contact Our Pennsylvania Probation and Parole Lawyers for Advice

If you are facing criminal charges or have already been convicted and are awaiting parole, contact our Philadelphia probation violation lawyer for help. We can help you advocate for your rights and hopefully get you home to your family. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.