Ten questions: Texas Parole Law

At the Schneider Law Firm we pride ourselves on representation of clients in all phases of the criminal justice system. While we receive the most accolades for our trial work we are equally proud of the work we do for client’s seeking parole or trying to stay on parole. This blog post focuses on ten common questions we receive from family and friends that want to try and get loved ones released from prison early or from client’s that risk having their parole revoked.

1. What is the difference between probation and parole?
Probation and parole are similar in that they are both alternatives to incarceration. Probation is a sentencing option in lieu of going to prison, where the defendant is supervised by community probation officers. Parole is an early release from prison for offenders who still have time remaining on their sentences. A person on parole is still in the legal custody of the state and is supervised by state parole officers.

2. How soon is a person eligible for parole?
A person’s parole eligibility depends on several factors, including the year in which the offense occurred, if it occurred in a drug-free zone, or if it was a violent offense. In the vast majority of cases, offenders are eligible when their calendar time served plus their good conduct time equals 25% of their original sentence.

3. Does an offender benefit from having an attorney when seeking parole?
Yes. Unlike what you may have seen on television, most offenders never get an in-person interview with the members of the Parole Board. The decision of the Board is often influenced by what is contained the offender’s file, including police reports, reports of probation violations and victim statements. Having an attorney to advocate on behalf of the offender can be a significant advantage.

4. How soon should an offender begin preparing for his or her parole?
Sooner is always better. The attorney will need to file paperwork with the Board, will need time to interview the offender and to create a thorough parole presentation package. Family members will need time to write and gather letters of support. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least six months before the initial parole hearing.

5. How is the parole process handled and who determines whether an offender is granted parole?
There are seven Board offices throughout the state. Prisons in Texas are regionally assigned to one of the seven offices. When an offender is eligible to be considered for parole, his or her file, along with any letters of support or parole packages will be transferred to the applicable office where a voting panel will review the file and vote to determine whether or not to grant parole. The voting panel usually consists of two commissioners and Board member. An offender needs two affirmative votes in order to be awarded parole.

6. What is considered when an offender is up for parole?
The Board has developed a set of parole guidelines as a tool to help them to determine an offender’s probably for success on parole. These guidelines include factors such as the offender’s criminal history, employment history, age, and the severity of the offense. The voting panel will also consider an offender’s prison disciplinary conduct, whether he or she has participated in vocational or character development programs, and whether the offender’s release plan is suitable for successful reintegration.

7. What happens if an offender gets into trouble while on parole?
Parole is a privilege that can be revoked if the parolee does not follow the rules and conditions associated with his or her release. Sanctions for parole violations can range from a verbal reprimand all the way to a full revocation of parole.

8. What is a parole revocation hearing?
If an allegation of a parole violation has been made, parolees have the right to ask for a revocation hearing. During a revocation hearing, the allegations of wrongdoing must be proved by a preponderance of credible evidence.

9. Who decides whether a parolee should have his parole revoked?
In the event of a parole violation, parole officers and parole supervisors often provide the board offices with a narrative of the violation along with their recommendation on whether or revoke parole or to continue supervision, but the voting panels at the Board offices make the final determination.

10. Does a parolee have a right to an attorney at a revocation hearing?
Yes, parolees may hire an attorney to serve as their advocate during the revocation hearing. In some cases indigence or where mental competency is a concern, the state may appoint an attorney. The attorney can present evidence, examine witnesses and cross-examine adverse witnesses.

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Trent Marshall is a veteran attorney with considerable parole law experience. Prior to joining the Schneider Law Firm, he was a commissioner with the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Mr. Marshall was also appointed by Governor Perry to serve as a member of the Polygraph Examiners Board and the Texas Board of Criminal Justice Advisory Committee on Offenders with Medical and Mental Impairments.
If you would like to discuss your case with Mr. Marshall, he can be reached at 817-850-9955 or by email to trent@clientdrivenlaw.com