Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Explains the Difference Between Probation and Parole in Virginia
Virginia abolished discretionary parole for all felonies committed in 1995 or later. This means that the overwhelming majority of inmates will not be eligible for parole. A person sentenced to a felony in Virginia is expected to serve atleast 85% of their sentence. They have the ability to earn good time credit for early release once they hit that 85% mark. Put more simply, if an inmate behaves while in Department of Corrections (DoC) custody, they can be given extra credit for time served. For example, 1 day could count as 2 days. Or whatever the DoC decides.
The reason behind this change was, people were routinely being let out before they served their sentence in Virginia. Courts, in response, began giving out severe sentences hoping that the actual time a person spent in prison would average out (between parole and the max time allowed) to a fair sentence. This was a patently bad system for the Commonwealth and led to people getting very harsh penalties for very minor crimes.
The following article discusses parole for those very limited circumstances it still applies in Virginia. If you were convicted of a crime any time in the last 20 to 30 years, you were not, and will not be, eligible for parole. You can, however, under limited circumstances hire an attorney, like Mr. Bezilla, to request a judge reduce your sentence.
Probation, on the other hand, is frequently used in Virginia. Nearly every felony conviction carries some amount of probation, regardless of whether active prison time is ordered by a court.
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If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Virginia, it's essential to understand the legal system and the possible outcomes of your case. A common area of confusion is the distinction between probation and parole. In this article, we'll break down the key differences between these two concepts, and how a Fairfax criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system.
The Importance of Understanding Probation and Parole
Knowing the difference between probation and parole can be critical to making informed decisions about your case. Understanding the nuances of these legal terms can help you better comprehend your rights, responsibilities, and potential consequences if you're facing a criminal charge or already serving a sentence.
What is Probation?
Probation is a court-ordered sanction that allows a person convicted of a crime to serve their sentence in the community rather than in jail or prison. This means that the individual can continue to live and work in the community, but must adhere to specific conditions set by the court.
Types of Probation
There are two main types of probation: supervised and unsupervised.
In supervised probation, the offender is required to regularly report to a probation officer, who monitors compliance with the conditions of probation. These conditions may include attending counseling, submitting to drug tests, or performing community service.
Unsupervised probation requires less oversight from a probation officer, but the offender must still follow the conditions set by the court. Failure to comply with these conditions can result in a probation violation, which may lead to more severe consequences, such as jail time.
What is Parole?
Parole is a form of early release from prison, allowing an inmate to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under certain conditions. Parole is not a right, but rather a privilege granted by the Virginia Parole Board based on the inmate's behavior, rehabilitation, and readiness to re-enter society.
The Parole Process
Parole involves a two-step process: determining eligibility and parole hearings.
Eligibility for Parole
In Virginia, not all inmates are eligible for parole. Certain crimes, such as first-degree murder, require a mandatory minimum sentence without the possibility of parole. Other factors, such as the inmate's criminal history and the length of their sentence, also impact parole eligibility.
Once an inmate is deemed eligible for parole, they will have a parole hearing before the Virginia Parole Board. At this hearing, the board will consider factors such as the inmate's behavior while incarcerated, their level of remorse, and the risk they pose to public safety. The board may also take into account input from the victim or the victim's family, as well as recommendations from prison staff.
Key Differences Between Probation and Parole
Although both probation and parole involve supervision in the community, there are some crucial differences between the two.
Probation is typically ordered at the time of sentencing, allowing the offender to serve their sentence in the community from the outset. Parole, on the other hand, comes into play after an inmate has served a portion of their sentence in prison and is granted early release.
While both probation and parole involve supervision, the level of oversight may differ. Probation usually requires more frequent contact with a probation officer, especially in the case of supervised probation. Parolees, however, may have less frequent contact with their parole officer, depending on the specific conditions of their release.
Violations and Consequences
Violating the conditions of probation or parole can result in serious consequences. A probation violation may lead to the offender being sentenced to jail or having their probation extended. In the case of parole violations, the offender may be returned to prison to serve the remainder of their original sentence.
How a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Navigating the complexities of the criminal justice system can be overwhelming, particularly when trying to understand the differences between probation and parole. A skilled Fairfax criminal defense attorney can provide invaluable guidance and support.
Navigating the Legal System
An experienced attorney will help you understand the nuances of probation and parole, as well as the potential consequences of violating their conditions. They can also advise you on the best course of action to take in your case, whether you're facing criminal charges or seeking early release from prison.
Protecting Your Rights
A criminal defense attorney will work tirelessly to protect your rights throughout the legal process. From negotiating plea agreements to advocating for fair and reasonable probation or parole conditions, an attorney can help ensure that your best interests are represented.
Understanding the differences between probation and parole is essential for anyone involved in the criminal justice system in Virginia. While both concepts involve serving a sentence in the community, they differ in terms of timing, supervision, and potential consequences for violations. By working with an experienced Fairfax criminal defense attorney, you can navigate the complexities of the legal system and ensure that your rights are protected.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the main difference between probation and parole? The main difference between probation and parole is that probation is an alternative to incarceration ordered at the time of sentencing, while parole is an early release from prison granted by the Virginia Parole Board.
- Can an inmate be denied parole? Yes, the Virginia Parole Board can deny parole for various reasons, including the inmate's behavior, risk to public safety, or the nature of their crime.
- What happens if a probation violation occurs? If a probation violation occurs, the offender may face consequences such as jail time, an extension of their probation, or additional conditions imposed by the court.
- Do all inmates in Virginia have the possibility of parole? No, most inmates are not eligible for parole. Certain crimes, such as first-degree murder, carry mandatory minimum sentences without the possibility of parole. Other factors, like the inmate's criminal history and the length of their sentence, also impact parole eligibility. And when they were convicted of the crime. Generally there is no parole in Virginia and someone convicted of a crime will serve 85% of their sentence.
- How can a Fairfax criminal defense attorney help with probation or parole issues? A Fairfax criminal defense attorney can help you understand the complexities of probation and parole, advise you on the best course of action for your case, negotiate plea agreements, and advocate for fair and reasonable probation or parole conditions. By working with an experienced attorney, you can ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.