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People who face felony charges are usually sentenced to state prison or county jails. Some of these offenders have to undergo parole after serving a prison/jail term. Parole is a program that helps the inmate to serve their sentence in the community while observing specific terms and conditions. The parole conditions will depend on the type of sentence that you are facing. If you are in Van Nuys, you can contact us at Leah Legal to help you understand if you are eligible for parole and how we can help you.

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Facts about California Parole Program

The parole program was not as popular or developed as it is today. Before 1977, parole boards had concerns over the rehabilitation of an inmate through the prison system other than the parole program. Therefore, there were hardly any parole dates set for those who were eligible for the program.

The California legislature was unhappy with this process since they believed that an inmate would only serve a sentence that is proportional to the offense that he or she has committed. Therefore, if one has served the time that falls under the sentence, one should be paroled. However, one cannot go through the program if he or she poses a risk to the safety of the public. This applies to those that have been convicted with life imprisonment, once they have served the determinant period.

A parole board determines whether a prisoner is eligible for parole. It consists of 17 commissioners appointed by the governor. This board is responsible for conducting a hearing for both determinate and indeterminate inmates. The hearing for indeterminate inmates is considered lifer hearings since they face life imprisonment.

Please note, a determinate inmate is deemed eligible for parole at the end of a sentence. Also, the fact that you have the chance of getting parole does not mean that it is automatic. You need to meet some aspects to be eligible for the program.

Factors that Determine Eligibility for Parole

Eligibility for parole depends on the kind of sentence that one is serving and the good time credit that one has achieved while in prison. Here is a detailed view of these factors.

Determinate Sentence

A determinant sentence is a sentence that runs for a particular number of years. For instance, if you are convicted for five years in prison, this means that the five years of imprisonment are determinant.

Indeterminate Sentence

This is a sentence that runs for an indefinite number of years. It is usually referred to as a sentence of a specific number of years to life. The number of years provided is the determinate part, while the “life” represents the indeterminate. When a judge is convicting someone with an indeterminate sentence, but without a specific number of years, the minimum eligible parole is usually seven years.

Work Time Credit or Good Time

Sometimes inmates have the chance of earning good time credit or work time credit while serving their prison sentence. The credit allows them to serve part of their sentence and become eligible for parole.

Initially, inmates with good time credit would only serve half of the determinate sentence before being released on parole. However, this changed and required them to serve two-thirds of their sentence to be eligible for parole. The decision was later overruled, and inmates turn back to serving half of the sentence through a “day to day” credit due to overcrowding in jails and prison.

Nevertheless, not all felony inmates are eligible for the half-term sentence parole. Those that are convicted under California violent felonies are required to serve 85% of their prison sentence before being eligible for their parole. California violent felonies include first-degree burglary, rape, and lewd act on a minor below the age of 14 or child molestation.

Finally, two classes of inmates cannot earn any good time credit. These include those convicted for murder and those with previous convictions for two or more prior felonies. Inmates who are under this category should serve the entire determinate period to be eligible for parole.

The parole board must determine whether you are ready to re-enter society if you do not pose any risks to the safety of the public. Some of the other factors that the board can consider are:

  • The extent of your underlying offense
  • Your motivation towards committing the crime
  • Whether you committed the crime in a heinously
  • Signs of remorse
  • Age
  • Psychological evaluations
  • Your attitude towards the parole program
  • You lack insight
  • The possibility of integrating into society through community support, job, and family.

Changes in California Parole Program

Laws related to California parole are always changing. Whenever a new law goes into effect, it does not usually affect inmates who were previously convicted under the former law. Instead, it works for prospective and future inmates. That’s why it is necessary to understand the minimum eligible parole date once you are convicted.

One of these changes is the effort to improve parole supervision and reduce the rate at which parolees re-enter into criminal activities. That’s why the California Department of Corrections, which oversees the California parole program, came up with a new parole program back in January 2010.

This new program is meant to achieve three goals, which are:

  • To reduce recidivism through the completion of rehabilitation programs that can offer substantial-good time credit. This includes programs like inmate firefighting
  • Improving the supervision of parolees with high risk by hiring more parole officers and implementing new low-risk parolees management programs that will help them to reduce chances of repeating an offense
  • Using community partnership to supervise parolees with minor convictions and sending them to local correctional facilities rather than sentencing them to the state prison

Understanding Parole Officers and What They Do

Once an inmate gets parole, he or she is expected to answer to a parole officer or agent. The agents have the responsibility of protecting the public and helping the parolees in re-entering into the community. The state is responsible for hiring these officers, and they work directly with the Department of Corrections.

These agents report directly to the Board of Parole Hearing, plan, and make recommendations before the release of their inmates. They also help the parolees in arranging services such as housing, social activities, employment, medical care, and social services.

It is the responsibility of the parole officer to investigate allegations claiming that the parolee has violated parole. After that, the agent will recommend to the parole board to allow the parolee to remain on parole or revoke the parole and rearrest the individual.

Qualification for Parole Agent in California

Some high standards have been institutionalized to meet the requirements for California parole officers. Eligible candidates must meet the following criteria before joining the department:

  • At least 21 years or older
  • Bachelor’s degree or associate degree with two years of experience in correction or law enforcement. Some of the courses that one must be qualified include criminology, psychology, sociology, and correctional science. A recognized school must offer the course
  • A United States citizen or an alien with permanent residency status
  • A minimum of a year of professional experience in psychiatric care, parole or probation, and has passed a background check
  • Can pass a physical fitness test that considers components such as upper body strength, bicycle endurance test, grip strength, and sprint bicycle test

Apart from the factors that make one eligible to be a parole agent, several other factors can prohibit one from such an opportunity. These factors include participation in illegal drug activities, marijuana use, having an active warrant, and pending criminal prosecution. Also, you might be disqualified from the application if you have a recent driving violation, DUI, court probation, and a military court-martial.

Parole Agent Training in California

Once you have met all the requirements needed for a California parole agent, you must go through a ten-week training program at the Parole Agent Academy. Here, you will be trained in three areas, which include academic, firearms, and tactical skills. This three courses will consider:

  • Shotgun use
  • Chemical agents
  • Arrest and control techniques
  • Casework
  • 9mm semi-automatic pistol training
  • Practical skill demonstration
  • Your duties and responsibilities as a parole officer

Levels of Parole Supervision in California

When an inmate has managed to secure parole, he or she will go through six levels to achieve complete integration into society. The parolee might experience increased or decreased supervision according to the needs and the extent of risk that they pose to society. These levels are as follows:

  • Intensive re-entry, which enhanced surveillance once one has been re-released into the community
  • Regular re-entry, which allows temporary acquisition of housing and employment once a person has been re-released into the community
  • Specialized caseloads, which guarantees concentrated and intensive services for parolees at high risk
  • Case management supervision, which allows a lesser supervision o a parolee who has demonstrated that he or she can successfully integrate into the community
  • Electronic surveillance, which allows 24-hour electronic monitoring as part of enhanced supervision if found necessary
  • Personal care and subsistence, which will enable parolees to transit to services like clothing, cash, parenting education, and transportation once they re-enter the community

Non-Revocable Parole Program

There is a different form of parole where a parolee does not have to report to a parole agent. This means that it is not-supervised like the regular one. This law came into effect on 25th January 2010. Not every inmate is eligible for this program, and is limited to people who meet the following criteria:

  • Inmates who have not registered as sex offenders in California
  • Inmates without serious felony convictions such as lewd act with a child below the age of 14, or any other conviction stated-above
  • Someone who has not been convicted as a sexually violent predator and does not have a previous sexual, violent offense
  • An inmate who is not a validated gang associate or member
  • Someone without a designated serious disciplinary offense while serving imprisonment

Please note, parolees under the non-recoverable parole program are not relieved from any requirements needed during parole. They must comply with the conditions provided by the Board of Parole Hearings. However, when one commits a crime, he or she will be charged and will be subject to the legal consequences that apply for that specific offense.

The non-recoverable parole program benefits the state and the Department of Correction in one way or another. With this program, low-level offenders are removed from parole supervision, which allows the program to focus on parolees with serious criminal convictions. The program also allows law enforcement to continue and maintain search without a warrant on these parolees, reduce the number of parolees returned to custody after violating parole, and depopulate county jails and the state prison.

Conditions for California Parole Program

A parolee has to follow certain conditions while on parole. These parole conditions comply with special terms depending on the specific offense that one has committed and criminal history. Generally, the conditions that California parolees have to consider are:

  • Submission to a search on you and property without a search warrant
  • Restrictions from leaving the state without a permit
  • Waiving of the extradition if found outside California
  • Reporting to a parole agent one day after you have been released from prison or jail
  • Report your work and residence address to the parole officer
  • Report your new residence to the parole officer before you move
  • Report to the parole officer within three days after changing your job
  • Request for a travel pass if you intend to leave one county to the other for more than two days
  • Get advice from a parole agent if you get a ticket or arrested
  • Restriction from the use or possession of firearms or bullets

Apart from the general conditions issued to the parolee, there are specific conditions that one might be imposed. One might be restricted from contacting the victim or victim’s family within a particular distance, which is typically 100 yards. This includes the victim’s place of employment or residence. Also, the parolee might be restricted from using the internet and associating with known gang members.

Violation of Parole Conditions

Once a parolee violates parole conditions, he or she will risk the possibility of having the parole revoked. The Board of Parole Hearings governs the revocation hearing, although a single deputy commissioner oversees the whole process. The deputy commissioner is hired similarly to a civil servant rather than an appointment by the California governor.

Penal Code 3056 provides that a parolee should be held in county jail, awaiting the revocation hearing. If the revocation goes through, the inmate will have to return to the state prison and serve the remaining sentence period.

The deputy commissioner must determine whether the parolee should return to prison and how long one should serve a sentence. If the deputy commissioner decides to revoke the parole, the parolee will face imprisonment for a maximum of a year.

If the parolee misconducts while in prison for violating the parole conditions, he or she may end up having an addition of twelve months extended in the prison term. Please note, although the maximum imprisonment period is one year, the district attorney might start a new case file against the inmate, which is separate from the parole revocation. If the case goes through, the inmate will end up being imprisoned for the new offense.

The parole hearing has two components. This includes the preliminary hearing or the probable cause hearing and the final parole revocation hearing. The likely cause hearing is held first to consider whether there is a probable reason to proceed to the final revocation hearing. It means that there is a reasonable suspicion that the parolee violates parole condition.

Both hearings are conducted similarly, and the parolee’s criminal defense attorney has the entitlement to provide defenses to mitigate the accusations. At the same time, the state will be giving evidence that supports why the parole needs to be revoked.

According to the 2005 California parole laws, the parolee should be retained until the parole gets released after winning the probable cause hearing. The parolee is also retained until the parolee is released after the hearing or gets re-imprisoned.

If the deputy commissioner resolves that a violation occurred, he or she will order a final parole revocation hearing to determine whether to provoke or reinstate the parole.

Defenses for California Parole Revocation Hearing

Since a parolee has the right to seek professional legal assistance, your attorney should employ relevant legal defenses to fight against the charges that are leveled against you. The state has high chances of winning the case, unless you prove that the allegations are not true and the situation involves serious mitigation circumstances. Some of the defenses that your criminal attorney can use are false allegations and breach of your parole hearing violation rights.

Find a Parole Legal Advisor Near Me

There are a lot of considerations involved in the California parole program. These considerations require a professional attorney to ensure that the rights and expectations of the parolee are considered. Leah Legal offers credible legal services to anyone seeking parole in Van Nuys. For more information about our services, contact us at 818-484-1100 and schedule a consultation with us.