Probation vs. Parole: Understanding the Differences Under Florida Law

While both probation and parole are related to the conviction of a crime, they are two distinct entities under Florida criminal law. Probation is a form of punishment that does not involve incarceration but is enacted by the state for a designated period of time.

Parole applies to an early release from incarceration under a specific set of circumstances. Violations of probation or parole are subject to additional penalties.

An Overview of Probation and When it Applies

The Florida Department of Corrections defines probation as “a court-ordered term of community supervision under specified conditions for a specific period of time that cannot exceed the maximum sentence for the offense.”

For example, a first-time offender who is charged with a second-degree misdemeanor may have jail time waived in lieu of six months of probation. During that time, the defendant is required to adhere to all terms of the probation, which may include abstaining from drugs and alcohol, regularly meeting with a probation officer, and generally maintaining a clean record.

Adhering to the Terms of Probation and Avoiding Additional Penalties

A person who has been ordered to undergo probation is expected to pay for the cost of the supervision plus other fees that may include court costs and fines. A person who violates the terms of probation is subject to penalties that include the revocation of probation and the full penalties for the crime for which the individual has been sentenced. In some cases, this means imprisonment.

An Overview of Parole in Florida: Why it is Seldom an Option

Parole is a form of post-prison supervision wherein a person is subject to a conditional early release from imprisonment. A term of parole cannot exceed the time left remaining on the sentence.

The state of Florida virtually eliminated parole through legislative acts in 1994 and 1995. Present laws have made it so that, each year, less than 1 percent of inmates receive parole. The state’s 85 percent law requires that inmates who committed a crime on or after October 1, 1995, must serve at least 85 percent of the prison sentence. Only 0.2 percent of inmates released from prison in the state in fiscal year 2011-2012 were paroled, according to the Department of Corrections.

Those inmates who are able to secure parole in Florida are required to adhere to specific terms. Any violation of parole can result in additional incarceration.

If you have been charged with a criminal act and have questions about probation and parole, speak to a defense attorney. Call (877) 663-5110.