How long will I be on probation or parole?

How much time you will spend on probation or parole will depend on the rules in your state, whether you were finally convicted, and your performance while under supervision. Some states combine the probation and parole function within one agency. In Louisiana, for example, the same agency manages defendants placed on community supervision (probation) and those released on parole. Texas, however, has two separate agencies to deal with the two types of supervision.

Factors that Affect Parole or Probation Time

How long you will spend on probation or parole will depend on the laws of the state where you were sentenced and the recommendations of your parole officer or probation officer. State laws allow for times to be adjusted based on certain factors. The first factor is where you are at in the process. Probation usually comes before parole. Probation is invoked when the judge has decided not to send you to prison, but rather to suspend your sentence, and let you remain free, pending a strict set of rules. The rules are usually referred to as "conditions of community supervision."

Your probation time can range from six months to ten years. The length is usually set in proportion to the level of the offense. For example, lower level felonies may only receive two to three years on probation. Higher level felonies, like assaultive offenses, generally receive close to the maximum period of probation. Many states put a cap on the maximum time for probation by felony. Generally, the probation time will not exceed ten years.

If you were sent to prison and then released, you are in the latter part of the process referred to as parole. How long you will be on parole depends on your original sentence and the judge’s orders. The time of parole cannot exceed the length of sentence ordered by the judge. For example, if you were sentenced to ten years in prison, and release after three years, the length of your parole will be the balance of your seven years. If you were paroled after receiving a life sentence, then you will be on parole for the rest of your life. If you violate any conditions of your parole, then your parole can be revoked.

Early Termination of Parole

Other than in compelling circumstances, most states do not have provisions for early termination of parole. Early termination, however, is an option for defendants on probation. Early termination is contingent upon your performance while on probation. If you successfully complete all of your community service hours, pay your fine, and finish any other court ordered requirements, some states will allow you to petition the court for early discharge. Exactly when you can apply will depend on your state, but most will allow it after one-half of your probation has been completed.

The time of probation will not generally affect your time on parole. Meaning, you do not get credit on your sentence for the time you spent on probation. For example, you were sentenced to ten years in prison, but the court decided to suspend your sentence and place you on community supervision for five years. After three years, you violated your conditions and were sentenced to ten years in prison. You do not get credit on your ten year sentence for the time you spent on probation because your sentence was suspended during that time.

Getting Help

If you think that your time on probation or parole has been calculated incorrectly, then you should consult with a criminal attorney who is familiar with the rules in your jurisdiction for appealing these types of calculations.