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Pennsylvania Parole Hearings, Violations and Revocations

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Criminal Defense, Gagnon Hearing, Parole Violation | 0 comments

In Pennsylvania, there are approximately 100,000 people under parole each year according to the National Institute of Corrections. Many Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys note that this number has continued to rise in recent years. Some studies project that the count may reach 125,000 or more by the end of the decade.

Parole Is Not a Federal Right

The Supreme Court of the United States held in a 1908 decision that there is no constitutional right to parole. In fact, the federal government abolished the concept of parole in the federal prison system in 1987. There are also no federal laws that govern state parole. A state may choose not to have parole. If a state chooses to have parole, as Pennsylvania does, it has sole discretion over defining its terms and its procedures through appropriate legislation.

What Is Parole?

It is important to understand that parole varies from state to state when defining it. In general, parole is conditional freedom, and there are different types:

  • Probation
  • Mandatory parole
  • Discretionary parole

Probation is a type of parole ordered by a judge in lieu of prison time. The judge will also give the person a suspended sentence. If a person does not meet the conditions of the parole, the suspended sentence becomes active. The person may then be eligible later for parole.

When many people think about parole, they picture what is known as discretionary parole. This is when a prison releases an inmate early, and the person completes the sentence under supervision. Mandatory parole is also referred to as post-incarceration supervision. This occurs after an inmate has completed their sentence. The purpose here is to ensure that the person is reintegrating into society in a successful manner and not posing a threat to others.

Parole in Pennsylvania

Parole is defined in and governed by Pennsylvania statutes. The definition does not deviate notably from the general understanding as discussed earlier. How parole is handled is dictated by a Memorandum of Understanding in 2017 between the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Pennsylvania Parole Board. The MOU governs the following:

  • Authority
  • Records
  • Requirements
  • Conditions
  • Violations
  • Revocation
  • Placement
  • Supervision
  • Reentry
  • Return

The MOU combined any overlapping agencies and resources between the DOC and the Board. It also created a centralized chain of command. The Board has authority over any sentences with a term of two or more years. Parolees with sentences less than two years are supervised by the respective county. County procedures mirror those of the Board for the most part, but there may be some minor differences.

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition

The ARD program is unique to Pennsylvania and approved by the Supreme Court of the state. This is a special type of probation overseen by this organization. It is generally reserved for first-time offenders and allows the state to save a great deal of time and money on people who are unlikely to be repeat offenders.

Conditions of Supervision

People placed under supervision of the Adult Probation Office must follow the prescribed rules of conduct. These rules include the Conditions of Supervision, which apply to all parolees. They also include any Special Conditions. Those are conditions placed on the person by the court as part of their sentence or suspended sentence. A violation is any act that defies these rules. All criminal arrests and offenses are violations, but violations are not limited to criminal acts. The Conditions of Supervision include:

  • No travel outside the state
  • No possession of a firearm or ammunition
  • Immediate notification of any address change
  • No alcohol consumption
  • Random alcohol and drug testing at the parole officer’s discretion
  • Payment of restitution, fines and supervision fees

Response to Violations

There are two core types of violators:

  • Technical parole violator
  • Convicted parole violator

A TPV is a parolee that makes a technical violation. Examples include breaking curfew or not reporting when instructed. These are not crimes, but they are breaches of the parole agreement. A CPV is a parolee who commits a crime that is punishable by imprisonment. Lesser crimes fall under technical violations. A parole officer has the discretion to take no action against a TPV. A common example is a TPV who misses an appointment but is otherwise a good citizen.

Responses to violations vary depending on the seriousness of the violation, the willingness of the parolee to comply and the likelihood of future violations. The punishment can include:

  • Revocation
  • Imprisonment
  • Additional sanctions
  • Mandatory program participation

The Revocation Process

The revocation process is the ultimate response to any parole violation. It will result in the person resuming their sentence in prison or beginning a sentence that had been suspended. Revocation does not mean that the person can never be paroled again. Having one’s parole revoked requires two hearings:

  • Gagnon I
  • Gagnon II

Parole Violation Hearings are called Gagnon hearings in reference to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gagnon vs. Scarpelli. The Court upheld in that case that probationers and parolees have the right to a hearing.

Gagnon I

Gagnon I is a preliminary hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to determine if there is probable cause that the parolee committed the violation. This hearing may be heard before the sentencing judge. In most cases, however, it is heard by another party:

  • APO Chief
  • APO Assistant Chief
  • APO Supervisor

Gagnon II

The Gagnon II hearing only occurs if probable cause was found during the preliminary hearing. This hearing is presided over by a judge, who in many cases is the original sentencing judge. If the parolee is found guilty, the judge may revoke the parole. What happens next depends on the original sentencing and any new sentencing if applicable.

Probation or Immediate Punishment

Revocation is not the only outcome of a Gagnon II hearing. A judge may also choose to:

  • Continue the parole on its existing terms
  • Modify it
  • Extend it
  • Dismiss it

Revocation of Parole

If the parole is revoked, time on parole is not counted as time served. This is an important aspect of parole law in Pennsylvania. As an example, consider a citizen who was sentenced to 12 months in jail, served three months and was then paroled. This person was on parole for six months before having the parole revoked. They only get credit for three months and thus must serve an additional nine months.

Local Representation in Pennsylvania

If you or a loved one has a parole issue in Pennsylvania, the law firm of Bauer, Scanlon & Wigginton is here to help. BSW has many years of experience navigating the parole system and other aspects of Pennsylvania criminal law. We offer initial consultations during which a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney will consider your case and discuss it with you. To schedule that consultation, call 610-590-5092 or contact us online.