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Understanding Probation and Parole: Why You Need A Criminal Defense Attorney By Your Side

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Facing the criminal justice system is overwhelming, even when it comes to avoiding prison or jail time on probation or getting out of prison on parole. And without a legal background, you might not be clear on certain things, such as the differences between probation and parole, and what these systems can mean for you as a convicted offender.

In this guide, our Powell Law team of criminal defense lawyers, based near Orange Beach, explains the following:

  • How probation and parole are different

  • Why you should seek legal advice from an experienced local criminal defense lawyer when navigating probation or parole

The Differences Between Probation and Parole

On probation, convicted offenders serve their sentences out in the community under specific conditions. They may, for example, have to perform community service.

Parole, on the other hand, grants early release to those who have served a portion of their prison sentence.

Let’s delve deeper into parole and probation and explore the role of the defense attorney in the offender’s journey to repaying their debt to society and starting afresh.

Probation in Alabama

Probation is a court-ordered alternative to imprisonment, allowing individuals convicted of a crime to serve their sentence out in the community under specific conditions. In Alabama, you’ll sometimes hear probation referred to as “community corrections” or “community-based corrections.”

When placed on probation, you must comply with various terms, which may include things like:

  • Regular check-ins with a probation officer

  • Maintaining steady employment

  • Abstaining from drug or alcohol use

  • Avoiding any further criminal activity

A probation violation has a number of potential consequences:

  • Additional fines

  • Extension of probation

  • Mandatory counseling or treatment programs

  • Community service

  • Revoked probation leading to incarceration in jail or prison

  • A more severe sentence than originally imposed

Clearly, if you find yourself on probation, these are all outcomes that you want to avoid. This is where a criminal defense attorney becomes a valuable ally.

Your criminal lawyer will guide you through the legal process, making sure you understand your responsibilities as well as your rights. Their job is to advocate for your best interests, helping you meet the conditions of your probation and avoid any pitfalls that could jeopardize your freedom.

What Are the Rules for Probation in Alabama?

In Alabama, if you’ve been convicted of a crime that doesn’t carry a sentence of death or more than 15 years in prison, the court may choose to sentence you to probation instead.

Misdemeanor probation can last up to two years, while felony probation can last up to five. Your specific conditions of probation will be set by the court, and if you successfully fulfill them for the designated period of time, your probation will end automatically.

If you violate your probation terms, you’ll face consequences similar to those outlined above.

Parole in Alabama

Parole, on the other hand, applies to convicted offenders who have served some of their prison sentence already and are released early, perhaps for good behavior, under specific conditions.

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles evaluates each case individually. If you’re being considered for parole, the parole board will look at the following factors, among others:

  • Your behavior during imprisonment

  • Any efforts you’ve made toward rehabilitation

  • Your risk of reoffending

Successful parole requires strict adherence to specified rules and ongoing supervision by a parole officer.

If you’re seeking parole in Alabama, it’s vital to have a battle-tested criminal defense attorney by your side. They’ll assist you in preparing for parole hearings, present your case effectively, and advocate for your release.

After you’ve been granted parole, a criminal defense lawyer can also guide you through the post-release process, ensuring you comply with your parole conditions and helping you successfully reintegrate into society.

What Are the Rules for Parole in Alabama?

If you’ve spent at least five years in the Alabama Department of Corrections, your defense attorney can apply for early parole on your behalf. You may be able to apply earlier if you have a particular medical condition. You need a unanimous approval vote from all three parole board members to receive early parole.

In most cases, you’ll become eligible for parole only after serving either one-third of your prison sentence or after completing 10 years (whichever is less). But if you’ve been convicted of a severe and violent Class A felony, you won’t be considered for parole until you’ve served either 85% of your total sentence or a minimum of 15 years.

For you to be granted ordinary parole, at least two out of the three parole board members must vote to approve it. Even if your request is denied, you can try again 18 months after each hearing.

How Can an Attorney Help With Probation and Parole?

If you’re in Baldwin County, a criminal defense attorney based in your area will have the right local knowledge and relationships to navigate the criminal justice system in South Alabama.

At The Powell Law Firm, we’ve been protecting the best interests of our clients in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores with probation and parole matters for almost 20 years.

We can:

  • Provide guidance tailored to your specific situation

  • Explain the intricacies of the system

  • Protect your constitutional rights

  • Help you navigate the conditions of your probation or parole

  • Try to mitigate the potential consequences of a violation

  • Attempt to modify the conditions of your probation or parole to make them more favorable

If you’re currently on probation, seeking parole, or out on parole in Alabama, we want to hear from you. Don’t face the challenges of criminal justice alone. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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