Probation is a type of release from incarceration. Probation, unlike parole, is granted instead of incarceration. You continue to “serve” your sentence, but you get to do it from the comfort of your home and your normal life (subject to some restrictions). Probation imposes a series of restrictions and obligations that must be complied with or you face revocation of probation. Probation is a privilege, not a right. It can be taken away at any time.
Conversely, parole is early release from a prison sentence. Parole is out of the judges’ hands; it is granted by a parole review board or appellate court. The parole board reviews your current record as an inmate, and they have the power to release you if they believe that you learned your lesson (most sentences impose a range of years; the parole board can act within that discretion).
Regarding DUIs, probation is a popular tool to give first-time offenders a second chance. Probation is not available if someone is killed, injured or if property is damaged. For DUI offenders, probation usually imposes a restriction on driving, prohibits you from consuming alcohol, obligates you to check in with a probation officer, attend AA meetings, and alcohol education classes. The purposes of these restrictions are to discourage future criminal behavior.
If you are facing DUI charges, you should consult with a defense attorney at your earliest convenience. As illustrated above, there are numerous approaches to combat drunk driving charges and it all depends on the facts of your case. A lawyer can review your case and determine the best methods to proceed. For most DWI first offenses, you can negotiate for probationary release. An attorney can help ensure that you receive a fair deal and that you are equipped to comply with the probation terms. The last thing you want is to get tossed back inside because you misunderstood the terms of your release.