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What is the difference between probation, parole, and pardon?

These three terms can become confusing if you are otherwise untrained in criminal law. In what follows, our Fresno criminal defense attorney explains the difference between these terms so you can be informed in the unfortunate event you are arrested for a crime.

Probation and parole are similar in that they are both alternatives to jail time. Probation is offered before and usually instead of jail time, whereas parole is an early release from jail or prison. For both situations, the convicted is supervised and expected to abide by certain rules, one of them being an expectation to submit to warrantless searches without probable cause.

Both parole and probation have the goal of having the defendant breaking their bad habits which caused them to violate the law in the first place and both have a pervasive element of rehabilitation on the one hand, and protecting the community on the other.

Parole also serves to try and reintegrate the defendant back into society. The conditions the defendant is asked to observe can depend in large part on the nature of their charges. Someone convicted of child molestation for instance can be ordered to maintain a certain distance from parks or playgrounds where children are playing.

A key difference between the two is that defendants on probation are still under the court’s jurisdiction and changes to the conditions of probation must come from a court order. Parole conditions, rather, are established by a parole board.

What about pardons?

Pardons are a grant of forgiveness for those convicted from the state governor, as if the defendant had never been convicted of the crime. Most of those who apply for a pardon in California have finished serving their sentence for several years and wish to restore their civil rights by means of having their crime pardoned. Such rights include serving on a jury, the right to own a firearm, relief from the duty to register as a sex offender, and the right to get a job as a probation officer.

Applicants for a pardon need to show that they have been fully rehabilitated and granting a pardon is at the governor’s discretion.

If you do get charged with a criminal offense, call the Law Office of Gerald Schwab, Jr. today!

Gerald Schwab, Jr.


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Law Office of Gerald Schwab, Jr.
Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney
5588 N Palm Ave,
Fresno, CA 93704 View Map
Phone: 559.441.1418