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How Long Can You Go to Jail for Violating Probation or Parole?

While most people may use the terms probation and parole interchangeably, they actually have two different, yet similar, definitions. Probation refers to a portion of, or in lieu of, an offender's potential jail or prison sentence. Under probation, the offender remains under the direct supervision of the court and their appointed probation officer.

Parole typically involves a release of an offender from jail or prison after they've served some period of time, with good behavior being a factor. After this early release, parolees are typically subject to reporting to a parole officer, and in comparison with a probationer, experience relatively fewer restrictions. Because probation and parole law is set by each individual state, we suggest consulting a probation violation lawyer in a city near you to give you the best advice about your unique circumstances.



How Long Can You Go to Jail for Violating Probation or Parole?

Violations of parole or probation come in two primary forms: substantive and technical (or administrative). Substantive violations involve the parolee or probationer breaking the law while still under a parole or probation period. Technical violations involve a breach of supervisory rules such as missing appointments with their parole or probation officer. Substantive violations are usually considered the more serious of the two.

What Happens if You Violate Probation or Parole?

The severity of the punishment for breaking parole or probation depends almost entirely on the context of the breach, and whether it was substantive or technical in nature. For example, in Texas (where parole is called “community supervision"), a community supervision officer can order a so-called blue warrant for your arrest if they believe you have violated the conditions of your parole.

First-time violators of an administrative nature may be able to negotiate a return to the terms of their parole, while substantive offenders will need to clear themselves of any new charges before a determination can be made. If found guilty of a substantive offense while on parole, it is actually possible for courts to revoke the parole entirely, and to return the offender to jail or prison. Further, their time spent in community supervision does not count against the initial time to be served.

Texas applies a similar standard to probationers who defy either a felony probation order or a misdemeanor probation order. Revocation is commonplace for those who willfully, repeatedly or substantively defy the terms and conditions of their probation. Of course, in both cases, convictions based on any offenses committed while on probation/parole will be applied separately. Committing a crime while on probation or parole is usually considered an "aggravating factor" that can increase sentence length.

Can You Violate Probation or Parole and Not Go to Jail?

Yes. You increase the chance of being able to avoid incarceration if you have been cooperative with courts, a model inmate while incarcerated, largely compliant with a parole or probation order and it is your first administrative infraction.

In these cases your parole officer or probation officer may choose to meet with you to determine the reason for your infraction. If satisfied by your answer and any supporting evidence to support the truth of your statements, it may be possible to continue with your parole or probation period without further escalation.

Can a Probation or Parole Violation Be Dismissed?

Yes, particularly in situations where a substantive violation has been deemed not to have taken place after all (i.e., you were found not guilty of a new criminal charge during your parole or probation period) or in situations wherein you committed a relatively minor administrative infraction for which you have made good with your overseeing officer.

In situations where you are convicted of a new criminal offense, a dismissal of a violation is much less likely.

Probation and parole can also end by meeting the conditions set out by the court. These could include paying off court fees or completing a recovery program for substance use disorder.

Do You Automatically Go to Jail for Violating Probation?

No, but if you are found in violation of the probation terms and conditions imposed by the court it is possible - or even likely, depending on the allegations against you - that the government will seek to revoke your probation and you will return to jail or prison.

What Happens if You Violate Probation/Parole More Than Once?

By violating probation orders or parole orders more than once, you greatly increase the likelihood that your supervisory officer will instigate proceedings to have your probation or parole revoked.