Parole Revocation Hearings
Much of my practice is devoted to Parole Revocation Hearings. The process can be tricky but with strong legal counsel, much of the mystique can be understood relatively quickly.
In Texas, once an offender is released to parole or discretionary mandatory supervision, they remain under supervision of the TDCJ-Parole Division until their sentence expires. When an offender is processed out of the prison unit, they are provided with the conditions of their release. All offenders will have some conditions applied to them. The basic conditions include things like maintaining gainful employment, reporting to the parole officer, living in an approved residence, random drug testing, etc. Offenders may have additional "Special Conditions" such as Electronic Home Monitoring, Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment, or Ignition Interlock devices on their vehicles.
Once on parole, an offender who is alleged to have violated the terms of their release may be subject to a warrant for their arrest and subsequent hearing.
There are two main types of violations that are filed: Technical and New Offense.
Technical violations are basically any violation that does not involve a new criminal charge or allegation. Technical violations may include: curfew violations, positive drug tests, failure to report to parole, failure to reside in approved residence, etc.
New Offense violations are where the offender is suspected of violating any city, county, state or federal law. These can be charged offenses or uncharged offenses. For charged offenses, that usually means that the police have made an arrest. However, uncharged offenses can also form the basis of a potential revocation. That is, there can simply be an allegation made by a third party regarding an offender committing a crime to his/her parole officer that did not involve an arrest!
There are three parties in the Parole Revocation Process. First, is the Parole Board. They are represented by a Hearing Officer who presides over the hearing much like a judge in court. Second, the Parole Division is represented by a parole officer. They take the place much like a prosecutor in criminal court. Lastly, the offender is the third party to the process. The offender is not guaranteed an attorney as they are in criminal court. However, an offender can at all times retain their own lawyer to represent them at the hearing.
If an offender is charged with a New Offense violation, there will be two hearings. First, there will be a Preliminary Hearing to determine if there is probable cause to believe that the offender violated a law. Generally, at these hearings, the parole officer simply submits a summary of the alleged violation. Due to the relatively low burden, there is almost always a finding of probable cause (especially if the suspected violation resulted in a custodial arrest). At the end of the hearing, the case is normally continued until a later date after their criminal case is resolved. When the criminal case is resolved, then there will be a Revocation Hearing.
If the allegations are simply technical violations, then there will only be a Revocation Hearing. (If there was a New Offense Violation, then there will be a Revocation Hearing after the criminal case is resolved).
Both Preliminary and Revocation Hearings have two parts, the "Evidence" portion and an "Adjustment" portion. At both types of hearings, the Evidence portion is handled first. The Hearing Officer will ask the offender (or his/her attorney) to enter admissions or denials to the allegations. The Parole Officer will then submit documents to establish the violations. The Parole Officer can also call witnesses to try to establish the allegations.
Much like in a trial, the attorney can object to evidence sought to be admitted, cross-examine the witnesses, and present their own evidence to refute the allegations.
At the end of the Evidence Portion, the Hearing Officer will determine whether the parole Division has established that a violation occurred. Only if they have met their burden, the hearing then moves to the Adjustment Phase.
At the Adjustment Phase, testimony is taken regarding how the offender has done on parole, any prior violations, home verification, and employment history, etc. The offender is also allowed an opportunity to speak regarding their adjustment on parole, job opportunities, educational plans, ties to the community, family life, etc. The offender's attorney can also submit support letters and subpoena witnesses to testify regarding the offender's good moral character and standing in the community. In fact, many cases are "won or lost" at this stage of the hearing. Even if an offender has been found "guilty" of violating their parole, the offender's own testimony regarding what was going on in their life at the time of the violation can be incredibly crucial. Having friends and family testify to the offender's otherwise good conduct is also especially important.
At the end of the hearing, the Hearing Officer asks the Parole Officer for their recommendation and then the hearing is adjourned. The Hearing Officer then types their report with recommendation and submits it to the local Parole Board for their review. The report is first reviewed by a Board Analyst who then makes a recommendation to the Parole Board. The Board then has 30 days to issue a ruling.
After a Revocation Hearing, the Board then generally has 5 options:
(1) Return to supervision with the same or modified conditions,
(2) Intermediate Sanction Facility (ISF),
(3) Substance Abuse Punishment Facility (SAFP),
(4) Revocation, or
(5) Reconvene the hearing for further development of factual or legal issues.
An offender has the right to appeal only if the Board's decision was to Revoke parole.
In general, the Board takes a "graduated approach" to sanctions if a violation has been proven. However, one should never assume that a "first violation" will not result in severe penalties. Please remember that you can only appeal the Board's decision if the ruling was to REVOKE. That is, if the Board votes for a 3 month ISF or 9 month SAFP program, you cannot appeal the ruling. Therefore it is advisable to seek out legal counsel to discuss your options.
I handle Revocation Matters throughout the State of Texas. Call my office to learn more.