In short, probation is a type of sentence in a criminal case that is available in lieu of serving time in prison. Typically, probation is ordered as part of a plea agreement. Whereas parole is a conditional release of a prisoner that occurs before they complete their prison sentence. 

Thus, although probation and parole are similar, as both are issued according to a judge’s discretion and deal with a person being under some form of supervision, they are also different. Parole is available post prison release, while probation is available in lieu of ever serving a prison sentence. 

Prisoners do not have a right to parole, but rather, a parole board reviews their sentence and determines whether they are eligible for parole. Paroled prisoners are supervised by a public official, called a parole officer, that verifies that they are meeting the conditions of their release. If a paroled prisoner violates these conditions, they may be returned to prison. 

Some conditions of parole may include: maintaining a job, wearing a monitoring device, performing community service, avoiding drugs and alcohol, not committing any crimes, taking classes, and/or regularly reporting to their parole officer. 

Conditions to parole are similar to the conditions for probation. Eligible persons for probation are typically first-time offenders with lesser charges, such as misdemeanor charges. Further, persons eligible for probation are also supervised by a public official, called a probation officer. Probation officers will supervise defendants and ensure that they are following the conditions and requirements set out by the court during the probation period, in exchange for not having to serve time in prison. 

If a defendant fails to follow the conditions of their probation, they will most likely have violated their parole and will be sent to prison, often having to serve their original sentence or potentially a longer sentence. Typical probation periods can last anywhere from 1 to 10 years, but vary based on state laws and the original offense. 

Do You Automatically Go to Jail for Violating Probation?

In short, it depends. As noted above, if you fail to comply with the terms of your probation set out by the court, you may be charged with a probation violation. However, this does not automatically mean that you will serve your original sentence or go to jail. 

The consequences that you face for a probation violation will depend on the type of violation and your local state laws. This means that for minor violations of the conditions of your probation, such as drinking a small glass of wine, your probation officer may have show discretion and only give you a warning. 

Most of the time if you violate the terms and conditions of your probation, you will likely have to attend a probation violation hearing, where a judge will determine if you actually violated your probation, and what consequences you may face for doing so. 

To determine whether you violated the terms of your probation, a prosecuting attorney will need to prove that you violated the terms of your probation by a “preponderance of the evidence,” or that it is more than 50% likely that you did what you were accused of doing. This standard is used instead of “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is the standard for convicting an individual of a crime.

Common consequences for violating the terms and conditions of your probation may include:

  • Revocation of probation privileges and serving your original sentence;
  • Small to large monetary fines;
  • A brief period of time in prison;
  • Attending additional mandatory rehabilitation programs;
  • Additional community service time; or
  • Extension of the length or your probation. 

Can You Bail Out of Jail After a Probation Violation?

In regards to posting bond for a probation violation, the law varies as to an individual's eligibility for bail on a probation violation, depending heavily on the type of probation that individual is under. 

For instance, if you are on a misdemeanor probation, you may be granted bail, but if you are on a felony probation, then the court is not obligated to grant you bail. However, most judges will usually, but not always, allow for a person to post bond while waiting for your court date. However, bonds in these situations may be set very high, making it difficult to bail out of jail after a probation hearing.

Just keep in mind that bail is rarely guaranteed and if you violated your probation and are in jail, be prepared for your bail to be denied. 

How Much Jail Time Can You Face for Violating Your Probation?

It is important to note that although there are numerous ways of violating the terms of your probation, typically only two violations will result in a judge sending you to prison for the full length of your original paused jail sentence. Typically these violations are referred to as a “revocable offense” and include absconding, which is trying to evade the law/detection (like knowingly breaking your parole to avoid monitoring) or new criminal convictions. 

It may seem obvious, but if a person on probation is charged with a new criminal conviction, then a judge is authorized to reinstate the original sentence of that person, or even add additional time for the new criminal act. Therefore, the last thing that you should do if you are on probation is commit any new crimes. 

Additionally, although skipping one meeting with you probation officer may be a minor violation (also known as absconding), missing every meeting and making it impossible for your probation officer to locate you will result in a judge immediately reinstating your original sentence. For example, if you move to a different state and don’t provide your probation officer with updated information or attend your appointments, then you will likely be considered to have absconded from your probation.

The jail time that you will face for violating your probation with a revocable offense is typically the reinstatement of the maximum time of your original full sentence. Further, if you were charged with a new criminal conviction, then you will have to face both the consequences of violating your probation, as well as the charges for the new crime. 

Can a Probation Violation Be Dismissed?

In short, yes. As noted above, some probation violations, such as small technical violations like skipping a meeting with your probation officer, failing a urine test, or associating with people that you are told to not associate with, may be dismissed by your probation officer or a judge at your probation violation hearing. However, it is important to try and adhere to the terms of your probation fully, as your local jurisdiction or judge may not allow even small violations to go unpunished. 

Should I Hire a Lawyer If I Violated My Probation?

If you are in a situation where you have violated the terms and conditions of your probation, it is in your best interests to immediately consult with a well qualified and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney

An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you through how to proceed in your case, protect your rights, present the best case and defenses available given your particular circumstances, and even represent you at your probation hearing. 

As you can see from above, the consequences of violating your probation may be severe, thus, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney near you to assist you in navigating the difficult situation of violating your probation.