As is evident by now to even the most casual observer of the criminal justice system…defendants often are sentenced to a period of incarceration. Sometimes it is the local House of Corrections (jail). Sometimes it is the state prison (“state time”). Whether they are there for OUI, rape or manslaughter, there is one thing that all of these involuntary guests of the Commonwealth have in common.

They want to get out. And for the most part, they will.

Some day.

How does that happen? Can your lawyer help you with that?

Attorney Sam’s Take On Can Your Attorney Help You With Parole

Unlike a criminal appeal, parole is usually possible whether the defendant pleaded guilty or was found guilty by a judge or jury. The “when” of first applying for parole depends on the sentence given by the court.

I should point out up front that procedures sometimes differ depending on the circumstances. Further, with the recent complaints about parole boards which we have covered over the past couple of years, the willingness to actually grant parole can also change, depending upon the political season.

Some general parameters do exist, though. For example, if one is sentenced to jail, then that one is eligible for parole halfway through that sentence. Naturally, there is an exception to that. If there is a minimum mandatory sentence (such as with many drug charges) the prisoner must wait to finish that mandatory sentence. In state prison, due to changes in the sentencing procedures passed a number of years ago, the prisoner must serve the entire sentence of, at least, the bottom number of the sentence. By “bottom number” I mean if a person is sentenced to a term no more than 10 years and no less than 8 years, the 8 years is the bottom number.

In both cases, there is certain “good time” that is applicable to cut down on the time and make parole eligibility sooner. However, due tot he above-referenced change, that time is hardly worth mentioning in the state prison term.

Interesting, when that statute was passed, its goal was stated in its title, “Truth In Sentencing”. Its goal was not to suddenly make parole eligibility a more distant goal. The expectation was that, as a result, the sentences given would be lower in terms of years.

Yes, funny how that didn’t happen. What is it I am always saying about the political fear of seeming “soft on crime”?

But, I digress.

Whenever a prisoner becomes eligible for parole (regardless of which time around), there is a parole board which meets with the prisoner. The board reviews whatever paperwork and testimony is presented, and makes the decision as to whether or not they will let the prisoner out on parole.

If the board decides in favor of the prisoner, that prisoner is released with conditions. Those conditions are monitored by a parole officer…much like a probation officer. If terms are not met by the parolee, then he can turn into a prisoner again and find himself back behind bars.

If the parole board does not find in favor of the prisoner in the first place, then that prisoner must wait a certain amount of time to try again.

This process is handled by the parole board and the staff of the jail or prison. Often,at least on the prisoner’s side, nobody other than the prisoner and his family are aware of it.

In fact, were one to call the authorities and ask, “Well, does he need a lawyer?”, the answer would usually be “No”.

And…that answer is truthful. The prisoner does not have to have a lawyer.

It is similar to the clerk magistrate’s hearing we have discussed many times. The accused does not have to have a lawyer there either. In fact, the accused does not even have to appear. Yet.

Of course, the question is whether the accused wants to take advantage of every possibility to prevent a criminal complaint from being issued. In the case of the parole hearing, the question is putting one’s best foot forward in achieving parole.

To be sure, an attorney’s role is limited in parole hearings. However, there is still much an attorney can do from, at the very least, preparing or reviewing paperwork, consulting and advising the prisoner and family and even locating potential witnesses or programs to suggest to the board.

Many criminal defense attorneys do not really offer this type of service. However, we believe that a criminal defendant does not lose the right to be treated like a human being upon entering incarceration.

By the way, the law agrees with us on that point. In theory at least.

If you have a parole issue that you would like to discuss with us, please feel free to contact us.

In the meantime, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!


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