Bail and parole are often mixed up in discussions of the legal system, sometimes even in TV shows and movies. As similar as they might be in concept, bail and parole are two different tools used at different times in the legal process. They have their own requirements and restrictions, and a defendant who’s eligible for parole might not be eligible for bail. Here are the key differences between bail and parole in the U.S. legal system.
What Bail Means
Bail is a kind of restricted release from jail that defendants can access by paying a court-set price known as a bail bond. Depending on the nature and severity of the charges against the defendant, the court will decide if they are eligible for bail and how high their bond should be. The bond price is used as an incentive for defendants to appear at every court date. If defendants can’t pay their bond, they can get financial help from a bail bond agency. Bail is useful for defendants who need to get back to their work, families, or any other outside obligations before their trial.
What Parole Means
Parole happens at the end of the legal process after the defendant has been convicted of a crime. A suspect can get parole as a reward for good behavior in prison or jail if the court rules them eligible. For example, someone with a five year prison sentence might be able to get out on parole after four years if they are reported to be a compliant, well-mannered inmate. Some convicts might be sentenced to parole without prison time if their crime isn’t too severe, or if they took a plea deal or behaved well in jail or out on bail.
The Difference Between Bail and Parole
Although bail and parole are both restricted releases used to incentivize inmates, they’re very different from each other.
Bail is an incentive for defendants to comply with court dates, while parole is an incentive for inmates to behave. Contrary to bail which happens before the defendant’s trial, parole is only offered after they are convicted of a crime and usually after a certain amount of time behind bars. Bail is offered by a judge, while parole is typically offered by a specialized parole board. A defendant will be sent back to jail to await their day in court if they get arrested on bail, but a convict who gets arrested on parole will be sent back to prison to complete the rest of their original sentence.
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