Parole is a conditional release from prison before the end of your sentence term is completed. When you’re on parole, you’re still under sentencing but serving the time outside of confinement. Any violation of the terms of parole can result in your returning to jail.
It’s not unusual to hear people use the terms parole and probation interchangeably. It’s easy to get the two confused since there are similarities between the two processes. However, probation is an alternative to prison. Parole is in addition to prison.
How Is Parole Violated?
Unless the court has specified a minimum time for the you to serve, parole eligibility begins when you complete one-third of the sentence. If the Parole Commission decides to grant parole, you are given
Conditions of release often include general terms such as obey all law, and terms specific to your offense, such as don’t consume any alcohol. There are also more technical requirements, like promptly informing the court if you move or change jobs. Failing to comply with any condition of release can cause a parole violation. Whether the violation results in your returning to jail depends on the Parole Commission.
Penalties for a Parole Violation
If you are found guilty of a parole violation, the court has the option of imposing a variety of penalties. Factors including previous violations and the nature of the violation will be considered. Penalties can include:
- Arrest Warrant: When a parolee is alleged to have violated a condition of release, a warrant may be issued for their arrest.
- Revocation: If the parole hearing is lost, parole is typically immediately revoked, and the remainder of the original prison sentence must be served.
- Increased Term of Parole: Even if you violate your terms of parole, the term of parole cannot be extended beyond the term of your original sentence. However, if you were up for early release from terms of parole.
- Fines: When you are found guilty of an infraction or a crime, a fine is usually assessed. If permitted by state law, a fine can be imposed for a parole violation.
- Criminal Charges: In addition to being convicted of a parole violation, you can receive an additional criminal conviction for the alleged offense. For example, if you are on parole for felony drunk driving and you are arrested for driving without a valid license, you can be convicted of a parole violation.
What to Expect When Accused of a Parole Violation
A person on parole is still presumed innocent of any new crimes or violations until guilt is established. A parolee is entitled to a hearing on the alleged violation and right to a speedy trial on any new criminal charges.
Parole cannot be suspended or revoked unless there is “good cause” to believe that a person violated the terms of their parole. At a parole revocation hearing, there is no jury, and frequently no judge either. In fact, the parties making the recommendations regarding parole are frequently not even attorneys, but parole or hearing officers.
The U.S. Supreme Court established minimal due process requirements for parole revocation proceedings by which all states must abide. The burden of proof on the government is quite low and if the hearing is going to be contested, you can have witnesses to testify on your behalf.
Procedural Requirements of a Hearing
When a parole violation is alleged the first step in a parole revocation decision involves a factual question to determine if there is probable cause to believe that a parolee has in fact acted in violation a conditions of parole. The first step is commonly called a preliminary hearing. Here’s what you can expect:
- The hearing must be held within a reasonable time at or near the place of the alleged violation before a Board hearing officer not directly involved in the case.
- If out of custody, the parolee is given written notice of the preliminary hearing and receives reasonable time to prepare their case.
- Witnesses and documentary evidence may be presented, and witnesses cross-examine unless the hearing officer determines that a witness would be subjected to risk of harm if their identity was disclosed. The parolee can make statements and answer questions but is not required to do so.
- After the hearing, the hearing officer submits a written report to the Parole Board on their findings.
- The Board then ratifies or overrules the hearing officer's findings, including any decision to release, and decides whether to hold a final hearing.
If probable cause is established, a final hearing is held to determine whether the parolee violated a parole condition and if it warrants parole revocation. The hearing process operates like the preliminary hearing, except that the Parole Board decides by majority vote whether to continue or revoke parole.
Free Case Review of Your Parole Issue
A parole violation is serious business and could send you back to prison. If you’ve been charged with a parole violation, you have a right to a hearing to present evidence and witnesses in your defense. A criminal defense attorney can play an important role at the hearing. Receive a free case review from an experienced attorney in your area to better understand your rights and legal options.