Do You Know the Difference between Probation and Parole in CO?

Parole and probation are both alternatives to imprisonment. Another thing they have in common is that either a probation violation or a parole violation is a threat to your freedom, and could potentially land you in jail for some or all of your original sentence.

However, these sentences are handed down under different circumstances, and their terms differ to some extent.

We’ve put together a guide covering the similarities and differences between parole and probation, the consequences of a violation, and how to defend yourself if you’re accused of a violation.

The Differences Between Colorado Parole and Probation

Many people use the terms parole and probation interchangeably, but these terms refer to separate judicial processes.

How the Probation Process Works

Probation is issued as an alternative to being sentenced to prison and allows the defendant an opportunity to prove that they desire to rehabilitate themselves.

The judge will either issue probation without a predetermined sentence, or find the defendant guilty and suspend the prison sentence. If the defendant meets all terms of probation, they will not be sent to prison.

When an Offender is Granted Parole

On the other hand, parole is issued after the defendant has already served some or all of their time in prison, and has been granted an opportunity to serve the rest of their time outside.

Parole can apply if the defendant is released from prison early on good behavior. Alternatively, some sentences require that the defendant serve parole after the prison sentence is complete.

What Colorado Probation and Parole Terms Have in Common

The terms of probation and parole are often similar although some specific terms depend on the defendant’s history, the offense in question, and any special considerations for the defendant. For example, a history of mental health problems or substance abuse.

Common terms of probation and parole include:

  • Regularly reporting to the probation or parole officer
  • Curfew rules
  • Participation in rehab programs
  • Random drug testing
  • Inability to leave the state without prior (written) permission
  • Not being allowed to frequent certain places, or see certain people
  • Counseling programs
  • Not committing any further criminal offenses

Probation and parole have one more very important thing in common: When a defendant violates any of the terms, their freedom is threatened.

Colorado Probation and Parole Violations

For a probation violation, the defendant is still subject to the jurisdiction of the court. This means that the original judge has the right to amend or modify the terms of probation.

The Judge Decides Next Steps for Probation Violations

Consequences for a probation violation can include:

  • A written warning outlining the consequences of any further violations
  • Extending the original sentence
  • Imposing additional terms
  • 2-3 days of jail time
  • Probation suspension which means jail or prison based on the original sentence

A Parole Violation is Seen Before the Parole Board

For parole violations, the defendant is brought before the parole board to determine the appropriate consequences. Consequences for a parole violation could include:

  • Revocation of the defendant’s parole, returning the defendant to prison for the remainder of their original sentence
  • Additional parole terms
  • A written warning

Colorado Probation Attorney

Any parole or probation violations should be taken very seriously, as you could potentially face jail time. This means that it’s important to respond proactively, and ideally to seek the help of a probation violation attorney.

Your response to the violation, and potentially your legal representation, can dramatically change how the violation is managed. Ideally, you will be able to work directly with your parole or probation officer to handle the violation administratively, avoiding formal sentencing.


About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.