Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between Probation and Parole?

What’s the difference between being sent to jail or prison?

What’s the difference between formal and informal Probation?

Can probation be revoked?

 

What’s the difference between Probation and Parole?

Probation is a decision handed down by the judge at trial. It may be in lieu of county jail time or in combination with some jail time. It allows the convicted person to live in the community for a specified period of time under the supervision of a county probation officer. Depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the crime, the judge can specify restrictions on the offender's activities during the probationary period. The Judge can also require the offender to attend treatment and counseling. Probation is used for sentencing in both misdemeanors and felony cases.

If an offender violates the conditions or rules of probation, he or she may be sentenced to jail and/or additional punishments by the judge.

Parole is the early release of an inmate who has served part of his or her sentence in a State prison. The inmate is allowed to return to the community under the conditions of parole and the supervision of a state or federal parole agent. Violation of these conditions can result in a revocation of the parole and re-imprisonment for the offender. The decision to grant parole is the responsibility of the Parole Commission.  Prison sentences are used for the most violent crimes or those where state law specifies prison sentences for specific types of offenses.

What’s the difference between being sent to jail or prison?

Jails are locally-operated correctional facilities. In Sacramento County, the Sheriff operates the main jail. Inmates sentenced to jail usually have a sentence of one year or less, although this can vary by state. Jails also incarcerate persons in a variety of other categories, such as:

  • People being held pending arraignment, trial, conviction, or sentencing
  • Those who have been returned to custody following violation of the terms of their release on
  • People being transferred to the custody of other criminal justice/correctional authorities

Prisons are operated by either a state or the federal government, and confine only those individuals who have been sentenced to one year or more of incarceration. Generally, persons sentenced to prison have been convicted of a felony offense.

What’s the difference between formal and informal Probation?

Courts may place an individual on informal probation with requirements that they do community service and possibly other terms.  Adults on informal probation are not under the jurisdiction of the Sacramento County Probation Department.

All juveniles, both informal and formal are under the jurisdiction of the Sacramento County Probation Department.

Typically informal probation does not include “searchable probation.”  A person who has “searchable” as a condition of probation, may have their home, person and car searched by law enforcement.

Formal probation is for more serious offenses.  All adults placed on formal probation are under the jurisdiction of the Probation Department. They may be required to check in with an officer, subject to home visits, and stricter conditions for probation. It is more common for those on formal probation to also be “searchable.”

Can probation be revoked?

Probation is a sentence with certain conditions that must be followed. If any of the conditions, such as no drug use, are violated, the probation officer will notify the court or prosecutor. The prosecutor may decide to file a complaint asking to have probation revoked.

The court has several options after finding that someone has violated the terms of his or her probation. The court can impose any sentence that could originally have been imposed for the crime originally committed, including jail. The court could also re-sentence the offender to probation, even on the same terms as before. Or it might re-sentence the offender to probation but increase the severity of the conditions, such as placing the offender on home detention or in an intensive supervision program, or requiring them to complete a drug treatment program.