Probation and Parole: Differences and Similarities

Probation and parole are both types of conditional release following conviction of criminal charges. In some ways, they are similar — but there are also significant differences. Probation may allow you to avoid going to prison. Parole may be granted after you serve part of a prison or jail sentence. If you are charged with a Nevada crime, it is important to understand how probation and parole affect your sentence and to know what happens if you violate either one.

Probation and Parole in Nevada

Under NRS 213.10705, probation and parole are not entitlements or rights of a criminal defendant. The statutory provision states:

The Legislature finds and declares that the release or continuation of a person on parole or probation is an act of grace of the State. No person has a right to parole or probation, or to be placed in residential confinement, and it is not intended that the establishment of standards relating thereto create any such right or interest in liberty or property or establish a basis for any cause of action against the State, its political subdivisions, agencies, boards, commissions, departments, officers or employees.

The sentencing judge determines whether a defendant receives probation. Parole is under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Parole Commissioners in the Division of Parole and Probation of the Nevada Department of Public Safety. The Board also appoints and supervises parole and probation officers.

Nevada Probation Basics

In sentencing a criminal defendant after conviction in some criminal cases, the judge may grant probation, which allows the person to remain out of jail or prison if the specified conditions of probation are met. The person remains under formal court supervision during the probation term.

Probation is not the same thing as a suspended sentence, which may also be a possibility for some offenses. NRS 176A.100 establishes the circumstances under which a court may grant probation or a suspended sentence.

Conditions of Probation

Complex statutory provisions govern probation. If a convicted defendant receives probation, they serve the sentence out of custody and out of jail or prison. In some cases, the person serves local jail time before being placed on probation. In other cases, the person may serve no jail time at all.

The judge imposes detailed conditions on probation. In informal probation cases, a probation officer isn’t assigned, but compliance with the terms of the court order is still required. In more serious cases, intensive supervision accompanies probation.

Common conditions of probation include checking in regularly with an assigned probation officer, avoiding further arrests, paying fines and restitution, remaining employed or in school, wearing a GPS tracking or SCRAM alcohol-detention device, attending counseling or rehab, avoiding drugs or alcohol, and not possessing weapons. Other conditions may apply in specific cases.

Length of Probation and Discharge

In determining the length of probation, a judge takes into account recommendations of the Parole Board. Probation can be as short as a few months or a year for minor cases or up to five years for violent and sexual offenses.

Under NRS 176A.840, the Division of Parole and Probation may petition the sentencing court for early discharge from probation if specific conditions are met. A defendant may request early termination in many cases as well. Granting early discharge is entirely in the judge’s discretion.

NRS 176A.850 sets the conditions for honorable discharge from probation and restoration of the defendant’s civil rights. They include successful completion of the probation conditions for the entire term of probation or early discharge by the Division.

Nevada Parole Basics

Parole is conditional early release from jail or prison after part of a sentence has been served. The statutes that govern Nevada parole are different from those that address probation.

When parole is granted, a person serves only part of a sentence in jail or prison and serves the rest of the time in the community. Generally, a person serves most of a sentence before receiving parole. Strict conditions apply to a release on parole.

Eligibility for Parole

Nevada law, NRS 213.1215, provides for mandatory release of certain prisoners with a sentence of three years or more. Exceptions are stated in the statute, as are conditions that must be met to be eligible. In addition, NRS 213.12155 provides for geriatric parole in certain cases.

Conditions of Parole

The Parole Board determines whether a defendant receives parole and sets the conditions for release. NRS 213.12175 authorizes the Board to impose any reasonable conditions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community.

Common conditions for parole are similar to those for probation. They often include: maintaining a residence (which may be a half-way house) and employment, avoiding new criminal charges, attending recovery meetings, avoiding contact with victims, refraining from drugs or alcohol (depending on the offense), drug testing (for drug-related crimes), and remaining in a specific geographic area.

For certain offenses, parolees are required to register with the State of Nevada. Under the conditions of parole established in a specific case, parole officers may have permission to make unannounced visits to determine compliance with the conditions of parole.

Violation of Probation or Parole

Violating the conditions of probation or parole is an extremely serious matter and may result in arrest. For both probation and parole, a person suspected of a violation is entitled to a hearing. The court (for probation) or the Parole Board (for parole) determines whether there is a violation and what action is taken for a violation. Depending on the circumstances, probation or parole can be revoked entirely if a person violates probation or parole.

If you are on parole or probation and are suspected of violating the conditions, representation by legal counsel is essential. Complex Nevada statutes apply in both cases. Your criminal defense attorney will provide an aggressive defense to the violation allegations and ensure that your rights are protected.

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you face any state or federal criminal charges or have issues with probation or parole, Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten can help. His investigative background and trial experience are significant assets in any criminal case.

The Gersten Law Firm assists clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.