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The Difference Between Parole and Probation in Florida

The statue of justice

A Clay County criminal defense attorney explains what to know

The difference between parole and probation in Florida can be confusing, but the two are very distinct.

Parole happens while a person is still serving their sentence. Probation is a "post-release" condition that starts once a sentence for imprisonment is over. Probation violations often increase a person's penalties.

In Florida, the situation is complicated.

The state basically abolished parole in the 1980s when it seriously restricted who may qualify for the program. Over the last three years, fewer than 100 Florida inmates have been released on parole.

Locally, probation oversight is the duty of the Jacksonville Circuit Office, which serves Clay, Duval, and Nassau counties. There are offices in Jacksonville, Yulee, and Green Cove Springs.

As of November 2019, the most recent information available, there are more than 7,300 people in this region out on supervised probation.

Florida probation

Probation is an extension of supervision over convicts that have completed their imprisonment sentences. Conditions are set and if they are broken or violated, a person on probation may be taken immediately to jail.

Among the standard conditions of probation are:

  • Report to the probation officer as directed.
  • Permit the probation officer to visit their home or elsewhere.
  • Work "faithfully" at "suitable" employment.
  • Remain within a specified place.
  • Live without violating any law — a conviction in a court of law is not necessary to constitute a probation violation.
  • Make restitution or reparations, pay fees as required.
  • Submit to random drug and/or alcohol tests.
  • Do not be in possession, carrying, or owning any firearm or other weapon (without approval from your "PO," aka probation officer).
  • Stay physically away from illegal drugs.

Probation violations

Probation violations are common and often extend the sentences of those who are sometimes caught with the wrong people, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The stated goal of a probation officer is to help the former inmate successfully transition from lockup to real life. The penalties for violating Florida probation can be harsh and technical. Violations may include things like:

  • Leaving the county without permission.
  • Failure to report a change of employment or residential address.
  • Associating with a person engaged in criminal activity.
  • Positive drug or alcohol test results.
  • Failure to attend a required class or group.
  • Failure to report to a probation officer as necessary.
  • Curfew violation.
  • Violating a stay-away, no-contact, or another type of protective order.

If you are facing probation violation accusations, to preserve your freedom, it is critical that you understand your rights. This includes a right to legal counsel and the requirements that the state proves their case. Violations can lead to a range of punishments, including:

  • More time imprisoned.
  • More hours of community service.
  • Counseling and treatment.
  • Support group attendance.
  • Loss of travel or other privileges.
  • House arrest.
  • Curfew.
  • Electric monitoring (ankle monitor).

You may also be sent to participate in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program over a probation violation.

Does Florida grant parole?

The short answer to this question is, not really.

In Florida, typically the only people who qualify to apply for parole are those whose crimes stretch back to the 1980s or 1990s. This means that less than 4,000 inmates out of Florida's 79,000 imprisoned-convict population are eligible for conditional release.

Parole is the restricted release of an inmate prior to the completion of their imprisonment. In Florida, parole is defined as "an act of grace" and not a right. Parole allows an inmate to finish their sentence out in the real world — as long as they follow the rules.

Just like probation, a person on parole is under the supervision of law enforcement and must comply with the set terms.

Due to Florida's overcrowded and understaffed prisons, there is a push to expand parole. State lawmakers are making proposals to save money by letting more people out on conditional release programs like parole. The Southern Poverty Law Center says Florida could save a billion dollars by paroling inmates, according to local media. Other Florida conditional release programs were created to allow for medical treatment and addiction recovery service participation. There is also "control" release, which is a tool available to keep a facility's prison population under 99-100 percent capacity.

Parole is granted and overseen by the Commission of Offender Review. It can also be revoked by the commission. Florida is particular about who qualifies for parole, and the year and date of a conviction make a big difference. You can consult a Florida criminal defense attorney to see if you are eligible.

Florida probation violation lawyer

Being accused of a violation is not the same thing as having violated your probation. You have a right to fight the allegations in court and maintain your freedom. At Aguilar & Sieron, P.A., our criminal defense law firm has a wealth of experience successfully challenging probation violation allegations. Our attorneys know how the justice system works in northeast Florida and how to fight for the best possible outcome of your case.

If you are seeking to obtain, challenge, or change conditions relating to your parole or probation, you need a lawyer who knows the law and can put their experience to work for you.

Contact us today to learn more about what our criminal defense law firm can do for you.

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