Even though the terms probation and parole are frequently used interchangeably, they are actually quite different. Take, for example, yesterday’s reports about rapper DMX. About half of the media websites reported that the rapper violated his probation, while the other half reported that he violated his parole. DMX actually violated his probation.
The main difference between probation and parole is that California parole laws apply exclusively to convicted felons and only go into effect once the inmate is released from the California state prison. As a “parolee”, the individual agrees to abide by certain terms and conditions, which are monitored by a parole agent.
Probation is also a supervised program, but (1) it applies to both misdemeanors and felonies, and (2) is imposed as a condition of sentencing. If the judge places you on probation, it means that you also agree to abide by certain terms and conditions, but you do so in exchange for either a lesser jail sentence or for no jail time at all. Probation can be formal or informal, depending on whether you were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.
If placed on formal probation, you report to a probation officer. If placed on informal or “summary” probation, you simply check in with the court for periodic progress reports.
Violating any of the terms of your probation or parole subjects you to further incarceration under California’s parole laws or California’s probation laws.