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Probation vs. Parole: What’s the Difference?

So many legal terms sound the same, and these similar words sometimes have similar definitions. It’s easy to get lost, confusing one term for another.

The terms “probation” and “parole” may seem the same, but in practice, they have very different beginnings and outcomes.

In this article, we will provide a broad definition for each term, and we will explain South Carolina’s probation expectations.

Definition of Probation

Generally, “probation” is a time when an authority figure observes you. For instance, when you get a new job, you usually undergo a “probationary” period before the employer issues your benefits.

The same is true for criminal law. Probation is a time when you are under strict observation by a probation officer. It is used as an alternative to jail. Sometimes, someone is under probation instead of going to jail. Other times, probation can be part of the overall sentence. For instance, imagine a 5-year sentence. Someone could go to jail for 2 years and attend probation for the next 3.

Definition of Parole

Sometimes, good behavior or overcrowding allows a person to leave jail early. Parole allows you to leave the confines of jail while still serving the rest of your sentence.

Probation is a part of someone’s parole. Imagine, for example, someone is sentenced to 7 years in prison. They are a model prisoner, so the parole board lets them out after 4 years. This person must spend the next 3 years on probation.

South Carolina Probation Conditions

During probation, an officer will observe your character. If they believe you are not obeying your probationary requirements, they have the authority to send you back to jail to finish your sentence. You could even be charged with extra time for breaking your parole.

Here are some rules and conditions you must observe while under parole.

  • You must pay probation fees.
  • You may have to follow a curfew.
  • You must stay out of legal trouble.
  • You are not allowed to own firearms.
  • You must stay at your residence, and you need permission to move.
  • You must follow allow of your probation officer’s advice and orders.
  • You cannot leave the state without express permission from your officer.
  • You agree to have your home searched at any time, with or without a warrant.
  • You must meet with your probation officer regularly. Don’t be late, and don’t miss any meetings.
  • It is recommended that you keep a regular job. Some probation officers will demand that you do. This will help prove that you are of good character, and it will help you pay your fees.
  • You consent to drug testing at any time, per your probation officer’s request. Even if your officer allows alcohol use, we recommend you stay away from getting intoxicated. In fact, you should avoid bars altogether. This will help prove good character.

Penalties for Breaking Probation

It is crucial that you maintain a good relationship with your probation officer. At their discretion, they can arrest or report you for breaking probation. From there, the court must decide what happens next. Your officer has a lot of influence here. The state trusts them to oversee your probation, and their word carries a lot of weight.

Here are some potential penalties for probation violations in South Carolina.

  • Go to Jail or Prison
    If you were sentenced to parole instead of jail or prison, and you violate your parole, the state may force you to serve the rest of your time in lockup.
  • Return to Jail or Prison
    If you are out on parole, the court could send you back to incarceration to finish the rest of your sentence.
  • Go to House Arrest
    You could be ordered to spend the rest of your sentence at home. Leaving without permission is akin to leaving jail, and it could lead to more serious consequences. You will probably be fitted with a monitor that reads your position and sends a signal to the police if you’ve wandered too far from the premises.
  • Suffer New Charges or Penalties
    Violating parole is a crime in itself. If your violated parole by breaking the law, that is a separate charge. It’s always a good idea to follow the rules and do what you’re told on probation. Otherwise, you could find yourself serving more time than your original sentence.
  • Endure More Intensive Probation
    Sometimes, an officer will give you a second chance, but they apply more pressure. You may be forced to attend more meetings, experience more searches and drug tests, have an earlier curfew, etc. This elevated probation could last for the rest of your sentence, or your officer could pull back to a more standard probation after you prove yourself.

Probation is just like any other criminal sentence. You can and should seek representation if the probation is unfair or unjust. Our firm is here to defend you, so call us now at (803) 938-4952 for a consultation . You can also contact us online.