Probation and Parole
SOME STATES ALLOW FOR UNSUPERVISED PROBATION. WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
The conditions of probation, including the supervision level in the community, are based generally on standards and guidelines connected to the nature and severity of the offense. A few states allow unsupervised probation. Typically, it applies to misdemeanor infractions and offenders whose class of offense, prior record or conviction level authorize community punishment as a sentence. The courts may sentence such offenders to a maximum of a certain number of years of unsupervised probation. Any reduction, termination, continuation, or revocation rests with the sentencing judge, not a probation officer.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR PAROLE?
Parole is NOT a right, but a privilege, and as such the question of whether to grant a prisoner parole or withhold it is up to the discretion of the parole board. Typically the parole eligibility dates are determined by statute, although in some states they can be modified at the discretion of the sentencing judge.
Although the laws vary from state to state, their basic approach is the same. Once a person is convicted of a crime, he is sentenced to a prison term. There are two types of prison terms: indeterminate and determinate. An indeterminate sentence fixes wide-ranging minimum and maximum lengths of time; determinate terms are fixed terms of imprisonment (e.g., 5 years for armed robbery).
If an offender receives a minimum and maximum sentence, once the offender serves the minimum sentence (or serves a specified percentage under some stateâ€™s statutes), they may become eligible for a parole consideration hearing. If an offender serves the fixed period of imprisonment imposed by the court, they may be released without further supervision or automatically placed on parole, again depending on the nature and severity of their offense and their potential for re-imprisonment.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROBATION, PAROLE, AND PARDON?
Probation is a sentence ordered by a judge, usually instead of, but sometimes in addition to, serving time in jail. It allows the convicted person to live in the community for a specified period of time, sometimes under the supervision of a probation officer, depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the crime.
Parole is the conditional release of a prison inmate after serving part (if not all) of his or her sentence, allowing the inmate to live in the community under supervision of the parole period. The decision to grant parole is the responsibility, in a majority of states, of a board of parole or commission. Violation of the conditions of parole result in revocation and re-imprisonment.
Pardon means that the individual is fully forgiven from all the legal consequences of his crime and his conviction.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I VIOLATE MY PROBATION OR PAROLE?
There are a number of options, ranging from a verbal warning to going back to prison to serve the balance of your sentence (or, if on probation, to sample prison life). For example, letâ€™s suppose you receive a one-year suspended sentence, are placed on probation for three years, and, as a condition of probation, told not to drive a car. If you are caught driving a car during the 3-year period, you would more than likely be required to serve jail time.
Sometimes, there are other possible sanctions, such as increasing the level of supervision, placement in an intensive day program, or placement in an electronically monitored home confinement program. If you are seen as a threat to public safety or have committed additional crimes, you will see the walls of prison again in addition to being tried for any new crimes.
WHAT ARE HOUSE ARREST AND ELECTRONIC MONITORING?
House arrest (with or without electronic monitoring) allows a person who is sentenced to a jail term to spend the time at his home as an alternative to being physically confined to jail.
Home confinement is monitored using an electronic sensor strapped to an offenderâ€™s ankle and linked by telephone lines to a central computer which emits a continuous signal. If this signal is interrupted by the offender going beyond the authorized radius of the receiver, the host computer records the date and time of the signalâ€™s disappearance. The computer will also record the date and time the signal resumes. If a signal interruption occurs during a period when the parolee should be at home, the violation is checked by the parole officer and the offender could be subject to arrest.
CAN MY HOME BE SEARCHED WITHOUT A WARRANT WHILE ON PAROLE OR PROBATION?
Yes. Home searches for all persons on probation or parole, with some exceptions, can be done at any time without a warrant by the appropriate state agency. During the course of a search, any items found that are a violation of probation or parole, such as drugs or weapons, can be seized and used as evidence. Additionally, you will be facing additional criminal charges.
WHAT ARE TYPICAL EXAMPLES OF PROBATION CONDITIONS?
There are an array of sanctions as alternatives to jail sentences that are typically given to someone who receives a probationary sentence. Sometimes a judge will order only one sanction (e.g., pay money to the victim(s) of the crime) or combine it in conjunction with other sanctions. For example, restitution is often coupled with community service restitution where the probationer pays back the community with work. Other sanctions can include:
- fines and penalties: used in misdemeanors and lesser crimes. Fines based on the offenderâ€™s ability to pay (called “day fine”) can be imposed;
- restitution to the victim of the crime;
- community service: labor done in the community for a public agency or nonprofit (e.g., nursing home, schools, hospitals) for the harm caused. Typically used for minor offenses;
- a suspended jail sentence;
- attendance at a drug treatment program;
- consenting to be searched at random.
HOW MUCH TIME WILL I BE ON PROBATION OR PAROLE?
Each state differs. Ordinarily, the amount of time spent on parole or probation depends on the crime and your behavior. For probation, generally, the longest period is five years. Most parolees serve from one to five years on parole, three being the average. But parole can last for the rest of your life if, for example, you are paroled for murder or were given a life sentence.