In California, a parole violation hearing is a legal proceeding to determine whether you violated the terms and conditions of your parole. If so, you can be sent back to state prison for up to one year. The hearing is also referred to as a parole revocation hearing.
What The Hearing Is About
During a revocation hearing, a commissioner or parole board decides:
- whether there is probable cause to believe that a parolee violated either a parole term or a new law, and
- whether parole revocation is appropriate.
Two Possible Outcomes of The Hearing
- If a hearing results in a finding of revocation, then the parolee’s parole is revoked and he/she is placed back in state prison for a maximum term of one year.
- If an inmate wins his/her revocation hearing, then the person remains on parole and must finish his/her parole term.
Note that there are instances in which a person can get early release from parole. For example, some offenders can petition the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for release from parole after six months.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What can bring about parole violations under California law?
- 2. What happens at a parole revocation hearing?
- 3. What happens if it is found that a parolee is in violation of parole?
- 4. What happens if parolees win at the hearing?
- 5. How does a person get released early from California parole?
1. What can bring about parole violations under California law?
A parole violation occurs when a parolee (or a person on parole) violates either:
- any terms or conditions of parole, or
- a California law (no matter if it is an infraction, misdemeanor, or a felony).
Examples of some of the most common parole conditions include:
- consenting to be searched by law enforcement officers at any time with or without a California search warrant and with or without cause,1
- agreeing to live within designated county limits,2 and
- agreeing to register with local authorities (this only applies to a very specific set of individuals: (1) those who are required to register as sex offenders under California Penal Code 290 PC, (2) those who have been convicted of Penal Code Section 451 PC arson, and (3) those who were convicted of certain California drug crimes).3
Further, some parolees may have to agree to conditions that relate to the specific offenses for which they were charged. These conditions may include, for example, restrictions that prohibit:
- using or being around designated weapons,
- accessing the Internet (for example, for certain sex offenses), or
- associating with known gang members.4
In addition to the above parole terms and conditions, parolees are prohibited from violating any other laws of the State of California. The Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) can set a California parole revocation hearing (and even revoke parole) for a parolee accused of committing another crime even if no criminal conviction is sustained.
2. What happens at a parole revocation hearing?
The parole revocation process will differ slightly depending on whether a parolee:
- violated a term or condition of his/her parole, or
- a new law.
2.1 Violation of a parole term or condition
If a person violates a parole term or condition, then he/she will face a revocation hearing in front of a deputy commissioner for the parole board.
During this hearing, the commissioner determines whether:
- there is probable cause to believe the parolee violated a term or condition of parole, and if so
- revocation of parole is appropriate.5
To help resolve these two issues, the deputy commissioner can hear testimony from:
- an arresting officer,
- any applicable witnesses, and
- the parolee’s parole agent/parole officer (regarding the parolee’s success or failure on parole).
In addition, the parolee’s criminal defense lawyer may introduce any evidence of mitigating circumstances. These are conditions that justified a parole violation.
Note that certain due process rights protect all parolees during the course of a parole violation hearing. These rights include the right to:
- a California criminal defense attorney,
- written notice of the alleged parole violation,
- the disclosure of any adverse evidence,
- be heard and present evidence on one’s own behalf,
- confront and cross-examine witnesses,
- a neutral and detached hearing board, and
- a written decision explaining the outcome of the hearing.
Also note that, per California parole laws, a parolee must be held in county jail while awaiting his/her revocation hearing.6
2.2 Violation of a new law
If a parolee violated a new law while violating his/her parole, then the person must attend a violation hearing in front of the parole board.
As with a hearing before a deputy commissioner, the board determines whether:
- there is probable cause to believe the parolee broke a new law, and
- parole revocation is appropriate.
Note that on the issue of probable cause (either in a hearing with a commissioner or the parole board), the burden of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means a parolee violates parole if it is more likely than not that he/she committed a violation.
The preponderance of evidence burden is easier to meet than a burden of beyond a reasonable doubt (which is used in criminal cases and criminal trials).
Like a hearing before a deputy commissioner, a hearing before the parole board means that:
- evidence can be presented to show probable cause or that parole revocation should/should not take place,
- the parolee’s due process rights must be protected, and
- the parolee awaits the hearing while in custody in county jail.
3. What happens if it is found that a parolee is in violation of parole?
If a deputy commissioner finds that a parolee violated a term or condition of parole without good cause, and decides to revoke parole, the parolee can be reincarcerated for a maximum prison time of one year.7
If parole is being revoked for committing a new crime, the maximum time the inmate can be reincarcerated is still one year. However, the district attorney may elect to file new criminal charges against the inmate, separate from the parole revocation. If convicted, the inmate can also be reincarcerated for the new offense.
4. What happens if parolees win at the hearing?
Parolees that win parole violation hearings remain on parole and must finish their appropriate parole term.
Note that once an inmate is placed on parole, the length of parole supervision depends on the crime for which he/she was convicted.8 Average parole terms are about three years, although some are five, and some are ten.9
5. How does a person get released early from California parole?
There are instances under California law where inmates can get an early release from his/her parole as long as they are not a public safety risk.
For example, some offenders can petition the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for release from parole after serving on it for six continuous months.10
An inmate can make this petition provided that he/she:
- was not imprisoned for a violent felony,
- was not imprisoned for a serious felony, and
- is not required to register as a sex offender.11
If the CDCR grants the petition, the Board of Parole Hearings must still approve it before early release gets authorized.12
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (www.cdcr.ca.gov)
- Division of Adult Parole Operations
- California Penal Code 3067 PC.
- California Penal Code 3003 PC.
- California Penal Code 290 PC.
- See, for example, In re Hudson (2006) 143 Cal.App.4th 1.
- See, for example, Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger, 599 F.3d 984 (2010).
- California Penal Code 3056 PC.
- California Penal Code 3057 PC.
- See, for example, In re Thomson (1980) 104 Cal. App. 3d 950.
- California Penal Code 3000 PC.
- California Penal Code 3001a1 PC.
- See same.
- See same.