What's the difference between parole and probation in Nevada?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 02, 2019 | 0 Comments

Parole in Nevada is when an inmate gets released from prison early. In contrast, defendants on probation may be able to avoid going to jail or prison at all. Otherwise, parole and probation are very similar because they both require the defendant to remain under strict supervision while they are out of custody.

Parole in Nevada

When people get sentenced to a prison term in Nevada, they may have the opportunity to get out early "on parole." When a person is released on parole, they are many requirements they have to abide by. Common conditions are:

  • staying away from drugs and alcohol,
  • holding down a job,
  • living in a halfway house,
  • staying away from certain people and locations,
  • checking in with a parole officer regularly, and/or
  • submitting to unannounced drug and alcohol tests

A standard parole period lasts one to three years. As long as the person follows all the terms of parole, the person can remain out of custody. But if the person violates any terms of parole, the Nevada Parole Board can sentence him/her back to prison.

Parolees suspected of violating their parole are entitled to a parole violation (PV) hearing in front of the parole board. It is similar to a trial in that the parolee's attorney can defend him/her; however, the prosecution has a much lower burden of proof than it does at trial:

Instead of having to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution only has to persuade the board that "substantial evidence" exists that the parolee violated the terms of parole. If the prosecution fails to meet this burden, then the parolee will be "reinstated" and may continue his/her parole.

Probation in Nevada

When people get convicted of a crime in Nevada, they may have the opportunity to have their jail or prison sentence "suspended" and instead go on probation. Probation is very similar to parole in that the defendant has to abide by various conditions, which may include:

  • being home between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.,
  • wearing an electronic monitoring device,
  • wearing a SCRAM alcohol detection bracelet,
  • checking in with a probation officer,
  • going to rehab,
  • submitting to warrantless police searches and seizures, and/or
  • paying fines and restitution

Probation typically lasts from one to five years. As long as the defendant follows all the terms of probation, the defendant can remain out of custody. But if the defendant violates any terms of probation, the judge can sentence him/her to carry out the suspended jail or prison sentence.

Probationers who are suspected of violating the terms of probation are entitled to a Nevada probation revocation hearing. It is similar to a trial, except that the prosecution has a much lower burden of proof. Instead of having to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it only has "reasonably satisfy" the judge that the defendant violated the terms of probation.

Note that a defendant's sentencing judge maintains jurisdiction over him/her while on probation. So if the defendant allegedly violates probation, the same judge who granted the defendant probation would preside over the revocation hearing.

In some cases, it may be possible to get an early termination of probation in Nevada. The defense attorney would file a motion asking for probation to end before schedule, and the court would hold a hearing on the matter.

Legal References

NRS 213.150 - .153.

NAC 213.550  Determination of whether to revoke parole. (NRS 213.10885, 213.110, 213.140, 213.150)  In determining whether to revoke the parole of a person for a violation of his or her parole, the Board may consider whether the person has, while on parole:

     1.  Been convicted of any crime committed after his or her release and, if so, whether the crime involved the use of a weapon or resulted in injury or substantial harm to the victim;

     2.  Engaged in a pattern of behavior similar to that which resulted in his or her imprisonment;

     3.  Used drugs or alcohol and whether confinement for counseling or classification is advisable;

     4.  Demonstrated an unwillingness to conform to the expectations and requirements of parole; or

     5.  Engaged in any other conduct that makes him or her a danger to the community and indicates a need for further treatment in a controlled environment.


Lewis v. State, 529 P.2d 796 (1974) ("Evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is not required to support a court's discretionary order revoking probation. The evidence and facts must reasonably satisfy the judge that the conduct of the probationer has not been as good as required by the conditions of probation.").

Correspondence with David M. Smith, Hearing Examiner II, Nev. Bd. of Parole Comm'rs (Oct. 2, 2017).


About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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