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California Parole Information

The term parole refers to a prisoner’s conditional release from prison before the expiration of the prisoner’s original prison sentence. For example, if the prisoner was sentenced to life in prison for the crime of torture (PC 206), then a post-sentence conditional release of that prisoner is called parole.

 

The term parole also refers to the period of time after the prisoner’s conditional release from prison. Therefore, parole refers to both the act of conditional release from prison and the time period that follows that conditional release. Conditional release simply means that the prisoner’s release from prison is determined by her willingness to abide by certain rules and restrictions.

Parole Officer Supervision: An inmate who is paroled from prison is called a parolee. The parolee’s post-prison conduct and conditions are monitored and supervised by a parole officer (also called a parole agent).

Note: Not all prisoners who are released from prison are subject to parole. If the prisoner completes her full prison sentence, as opposed to being released from prison early upon certain conditions, then parole is not required. Also, if the prisoner is released from prison because she has won an appeal of her underlying criminal conviction then parole is not required. Certain conditions of the underlying criminal conviction could remain in affect even if the prisoner is released from prison without parole, such as the duty of sex offender registration required in some sex crimes convictions. Finally, a person who has won a criminal appeal is not necessarily released from incarceration. For more information, see Criminal Appeals.

Parole v. PRCS: Prisoners released early from a California state prison after serving time for a violent offense, a serious offense, or a sex offense, are supervised by traditional parole agents. Prisoners released early from a county jail after serving time for a felony offense described in penal code 1170(h) are supervised by a post release community supervision (PRCS) probation officer. For the most part, traditional parole and PRCS are very similar.

Parole v. Felony Probation: Parole is sometimes confused with felony probation. Parole is a period of supervision after the parolee is released early from a California state prison. Felony probation is period of supervision instead of a jail or prison sentence. Both parole and felony probation require conditions that must be fulfilled by the parolee or the probationer in order to maintain her parole or probation status. Also, both parole and felony probation are supervised by an actual person (parole officer or probation officer). Misdemeanor probation is a sentence in lieu of jail and is monitored by the court. For more information, see Felony v. Misdemeanor Probation.

Parole Goals: The purpose of parole is to create a period of supervision between the actual incarceration of the parolee and the non-supervised reintegration of the parolee into society. Parole also serves to protect the public by placing strict conditions, rules, restrictions, and requirements on the parolee’s freedom of movement and associations.

Parole Eligibility: Once a prisoner has served the minimum amount of incarceration, which is predetermined by the crime for which the parolee was convicted, then the parolee is eligible for parole. Once an inmate is eligible for parole the Parole Board will conduct a parole hearing to determine whether or not the inmate should be granted parole.

The Parole Hearing: The parole board will consider many factors at an inmate's parole hearing, including, the severity of the inmate's crime, the inmate's insight gained, if any, as to the causes of the her criminal behavior, the presence of remorse for the inmate's crime(s), the inmate's conduct while in prison (or jail), the inmate's efforts, if any, to educate or rehabilitate herself while in prison, whether or not release (or non-release) recommendations were made on the inmate's behalf, the inmate's criminal history, the results of any psychological evaluation(s), the inmate's age, the likelihood of the inmate's success on parole in light of her social and economic support while on parole, and more.

Note: Victims and/or victims’ agents, and other person’s affected by the inmate's crime(s), including attorneys from the district attorney’s office, are allowed to present favorable, or unfavorable evidence, at the prospective parolee’s parole hearing.  Also, victims may not be questioned by an inmate's attorney at a parole hearing. Criminal defense attorneys are usually engaged to assist with the inmate’s parole plan so as to give the inmate the best chances of being paroled.

Conditions of parole: If an inmate is eligible for, and granted parole after a parole hearing, then she must first promise to abide by certain conditions of parole in order to be released early from prison. Parole conditions are designed to ensure public safety, but at the same time, assist the parolee with reintegration into society. These conditions of parole fall into two categories:

  • General conditions of parole, which are designed to protect the public, rehabilitate the parolee, and assist the parolee with reintegration into society, and

  • Special conditions of parole, which are designed for the same purpose as general conditions of parole, but which are more tailored to the parolee’s particular crime.

General Parole Conditions: General parole conditions include, but are not limited to, the following: agree in advance to a search of the parolee’s person or residence, agree to report law enforcement contacts with parolee (arrest and/or detention), agree to pay restitution (if ordered by the criminal court), agree to register with local authorities (for sex offenses, arson offenses, gang offenses, etc.), agree to waive extradition, agree to travel restrictions, agree to report to parole agent immediately upon release from prison, agree to provide (and immediately update) current address, agree to provide and (immediately update) employment information, agree to obey all laws, agree to not possess weapons or ammunition, and more.

Special Parole Conditions: Special parole conditions include, but are not limited to, the following: agree to wear a Global Positioning System (GPS) ankle monitor (common in sex crimes listed under PC 290), agree to not live with a parolee’s victim unless related by family (common in sex crimes listed under PC 290), agree to not use the internet (common in sex crimes listed under PC 311.11), agree to submit to psychologist evaluations and polygraph examinations (common in sex crimes listed under PC 290), agree to not possess a knife other than a kitchen knife and only in the kitchen (common in assault with a deadly weapon crimes), agree to attend anger management classes (usually for assault type offenses such as domestic battery, criminal threats, stalking, etc.), agree to not frequent a place where children usually congregate (Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knot’s Berry Farm, etc. [common in in sex crimes listed under PC 290)], and more.

Risk Level and Parole Conditions: Parolees are assigned a parole risk of re-offense level upon a grant of parole. The risk of re-offense is related to the parolee’s prior crime(s), prison conduct, outside economic and emotional support, and more. High risk parolees will have more restrictive parole conditions and requirements, such as more frequent contact(s) with a parole agent, more restrictive travel options, more counseling classes, etc. Some parolees that are considered low risk might have very few parole conditions and very few contacts with parole officers.

Note: Parole agents usually supervise and assist the parolee in her efforts to find and maintain employment, find and keep proper housing, sign up for medical services, sign up for and maintain regular counseling services, and more. This includes directing the parolee to relevant public agencies that might provide these services at low or no cost to the parolee.

Length of Parole:

Three Year Parole: With many exceptions, the typical length of parole for crimes committed after July of 2013 is three years after an early release from prison. This three year parole period is usually available for prisoners serving a set length of time (determinate prison sentence) and the crime for which the prisoner was convicted is not murder, certain sex offenses, kidnapping to commit a sex offense, or a crime that carries a life sentence. If the parolee violates a condition of parole than that three years may be extended to four years.

Note: A determinate prison sentence is a prison sentence that has a fixed amount of time, or a per-determined amount of time. For example, a prison sentence of three years after a conviction for Grand Theft Auto (PC 487(d)) is a fixed amount of prison time; therefore, that three year prison sentence is a determinate sentence. On the other hand, an indeterminate prison sentence, or a prison sentence that cannot be determined, has no fixed amount of time. These indeterminate prison sentences are associated with life prison sentences since there is no way of pre-determining when the prisoner will die.

Ten Year Parole: There are ten year periods of parole for certain crimes related to rape, spousal rape, sodomy, oral copulation, lewd or lascivious act on a minor, sexual penetration, and rape in concert. The parole period related to these crimes may be extended by an additional five years if the parolee violates a condition of parole.

Twenty Year & Six Month Parole: California law allows for parole periods of twenty years and six months for certain sex crimes committed against a person under the age of fourteen. These extra long parole periods are related to the following sex crimes against minors: PC 261 (rape), PC 264.1 (rape in concert), PC 286 (sodomy), PC 287 or former 288a (oral copulation), PC 288(b)(1) (lewd act on a minor by force or fear), PC 288.5 (continuous sexual abuse of a minor), PC 289 (sexual penetration by object), and more. This twenty year and six month parole period may be extended to life if there exist good reasons to extend the period.

Life Parole: Some crimes carry the possibility of a life parole (if the parolee is ever granted parole at all). These crimes include first degree murder, second degree murder, kidnapping with the intent to commit a sex offense on a minor, aggravated sexual assault on a minor, and more. Also, sometimes the underlying crime does not carry a life parole sentence, but a penalty enhancement that is added to the underlying crime creates a life parole sentence. For example, the criminal conviction for the crime of lewd and lascivious acts on minor under the age of fourteen (PC 288(a)) carries a ten year parole if the defendant was not placed on probation; however, if the defendant is also convicted of PC 667.61(a), a common criminal enhancement in PC 288(a) crimes, then the parolee’s parole length is for life (if she is ever paroled at all). For more information, see Penalty Enhancements in Criminal Law.

Multiple Crimes Convictions & Parole: Under California’s new Prop 57 law, a California prison inmate serving a prison sentence for more than one non-violent crime may be eligible for parole after serving the maximum prison time for the crime that carries the longest sentence. For example, if the defendant is convicted of two counts of welfare fraud (WI 10980(c)(2)), which is a non-violent offense, her parole eligibility date is after she has served three years in prison. This is true even though two counts of welfare fraud carries a three year and eight month prison sentence (assuming the sentences run concurrent). For more information, see Prop 57.

Note: When a crime carries a minimum amount of prison time, but also carries a life sentence, then the prisoner must be paroled at the end of the minimum incarceration period, unless the Board of Parole Hearings finds good cause to deny parole to the prisoner. Examples of this type of crime in include first degree murder (25-life), second degree murder (15-life), vehicular manslaughter with a prior vehicular manslaughter conviction (15-life), human trafficking of a minor (15-life), assault on a child under eight years old which causing death (30-life), and more.

LWOP: Finally, some crimes are not eligible for parole. These life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) crimes include murder related to a hate crime, multiple murder, kidnapping for ransom, and more. Also, sometimes the underlying crime does not carry an LWOP sentence, but a penalty enhancement that is added to the underlying crime creates an LWOP sentence.

Early Discharge from Parole: A parolee may be discharged early from parole after she has served a minimum amount of parole and the Board of Parole Hearings does not find good cause to keep the parolee on parole. The minimum amount of parole that must be served varies from crime to crime, but in most cases where the crime involved a non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offense, and the prisoner received a set prison sentence (determinate) then the minimum parole period is usually one year. For example, where a parolee is place on parole after a conviction for the crime of perjury, which is a non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offense, then the parolee’s period of parole is usually three years (see above); however, the parolee may be discharge from parole before the three year period if the parole board finds good reasons to support the parolee’s early discharge from parole.

Parole Suitability Hearing: A parole suitability hearing is a hearing to determine whether or not a person who is serving a life sentence might otherwise be suitable for early release on parole. A parole suitability hearing may be held after the inmate serves a minimum part of his or her respective life sentence. For example, a parole suitability hearing might be held after ten year for any prisoner serving a prison sentence for aggravated arson because the crime of aggravated arson carries a 10-life prison sentence.

Medical Release to Parole: When a prisoner is determined to be dying within six months of a medical evaluation, and the prisoner is incapable of caring for herself, then there are provision where the inmate may be released from prison on a medical release to parole, so long as it is determined that the public’s safety will not be jeopardized by the inmate’s release from prison. This does not apply to inmates who are serving a death penalty sentence, an LWOP sentence, or a murder conviction where the murder victim is a uniformed peace officer.

Parole Violations: If the parolee has violated a condition of her parole then she may be returned to prison or jail (parole revoked), have her parole period extended, and/or have new parole conditions placed upon her (parole modified). Any incarceration for a parole violation that is not subject to a life parole is served in county jail (as opposed to a return to prison). Incarceration for non-life parole violations is up to one hundred eighty days with possible time off that incarceration for good behavior. Good behavior credits may reduce the incarceration by up to fifty percent (50%).

 

Parole Violation Hearings: A parole violation hearing is a formal hearing held in the county where the alleged violation took place (with some exceptions). The parole violation hearing is similar to a probation violation hearing in that a parolee has the right to know the details of the alleged parole violation(s), the right to present evidence, the right to cross examine witnesses (with some exceptions), the right to remain silent or testify in her own defense, the right to use an attorney in her defense, and more.

Note: If the parolee is indigent and the parole violation is complex, or the parolee has a disability that limits her from presenting a defense, then the defendant may have the right to an attorney even if she cannot afford one in a parole violation case.

Note: Parole violations are often defended by criminal defense attorneys by demonstrating that the condition of parole was not a condition reasonably related to the parolee’s crime, or that the defendant could not comply with the condition regardless of her efforts. For example, a criminal defense lawyer may defend a parolee who allegedly violated her parole by not paying restitution by showing that the parolee could not afford the restitution in the first place.

Preponderance of the Evidence: A parole violation must be proved by the district attorney by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the parolee is not to be found in violation of her parole unless the district attorney proves, that more likely than not, that the parolee committed the alleged violations.

Flash Incarceration: Parole violations that are not related to new criminal offenses are often dealt with by incarcerating the parolee in a county jail for a short period of time up to ten days. This is known as flash incarceration. Flash incarceration does not allow the defendant to have a parole hearing wherein she may defend against the parole violation allegations. In addition, flash incarceration for parole violations may not be reduced with good behavior credits. Finally, a criminal law judge has no authority to release a parolee from her flash incarceration. On the other hand, flash incarceration has a maximum ten day sentence and multiple flash incarcerations could be a violation of the parolee’s rights where the multiple flash incarceration sentences are not tailed to avoid undue hardship to the parolee’s work or family commitments.

Finally, the law surrounding parole lengths and eligibility is always changing; there are many exceptions to the current general rules that might apply to any particular case. For that reason, it is best to consult with a criminal defense lawyer to learn the most current law as it relates to parole and as it relates to the prisoner or parolee’s circumstance.

To learn more about parole in California, contact our criminal defense lawyers today. Our criminal lawyers have successfully handled hundreds of criminal cases in the Inland Empire, including cases arising out of Fontana, Yucaipa, San Bernardino, Ontario, Adelanto, Rialto, and Rancho Cucamonga. Our criminal defense lawyers are available to answer your questions seven days a week and there is no charge for initial in-office consultations. Call today!

 

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CA Length of Parole Laws

(Abbrev. Selection)

PC 3000(a)(1): The Legislature finds and declares that the period immediately following incarceration is critical to successful reintegration of the offender into society and to positive citizenship. It is in the interest of public safety for the state to provide for the effective supervision of and surveillance of parolees, including the judicious use of revocation actions, and to provide educational, vocational, family, and personal counseling necessary to assist parolees in the transition between imprisonment and discharge. A sentence resulting in imprisonment in the state prison pursuant to Section 1168 or 1170 shall include a period of parole supervision or postrelease community supervision, unless waived, or as otherwise provided in this article.

PC 3000(b)(2)(B): For a crime committed on or after July 1, 2013, at the expiration of a term of imprisonment of one year and one day, or a term of imprisonment imposed pursuant to Section 1170 or at the expiration of a term reduced pursuant to Section 2931 or 2933, if applicable, the inmate shall be released on parole for a period of three years, except that any inmate sentenced for an offense specified in paragraph (3), (4), (5), (6), (11), or (18) of subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 shall be released on parole for a period of 10 years, unless a longer period of parole is specified in Section 3000.1.

PC 3000(b)(4)(A): Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) to (3), inclusive, in the case of a person convicted of and required to register as a sex offender for the commission of an offense specified in Section 261, 262, 264.1, 286, 287, paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 288, Section 288.5 or 289, or former Section 288a, in which one or more of the victims of the offense was a child under 14 years of age, the period of parole shall be 20 years and six months unless the board, for good cause, determines that the person will be retained on parole. The board shall make a written record of this determination and transmit a copy of it to the parolee.

PC 3000(b)(5)(B): For an inmate whose commitment offense occurred on or after July 1, 2013, except for those inmates described in Section 3000.1, the department shall consider the request of the inmate regarding the length of his or her parole and the conditions thereof. For those inmates described in Section 3000.1, the Board of Parole Hearings shall consider the request of the inmate regarding the length of his or her parole and the conditions thereof.

PC 3000(b)(6): Upon successful completion of parole, or at the end of the maximum statutory period of parole specified for the inmate under paragraph (1), (2), (3), or (4), as the case may be, whichever is earlier, the inmate shall be discharged from custody. The date of the maximum statutory period of parole under this subdivision and paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) shall be computed from the date of initial parole and shall be a period chronologically determined. Time during which parole is suspended because the prisoner has absconded or has been returned to custody as a parole violator shall not be credited toward any period of parole unless the prisoner is found not guilty of the parole violation. However, the period of parole is subject to the following:

PC 3000(b)(6)(A): Except as provided in Section 3064, in no case may a prisoner subject to three years on parole be retained under parole supervision or in custody for a period longer than four years from the date of his or her initial parole.

PC 3000(b)(6)(B): Except as provided in Section 3064, in no case may a prisoner subject to five years on parole be retained under parole supervision or in custody for a period longer than seven years from the date of his or her initial parole.

PC 3000(b)(6)(C): Except as provided in Section 3064, in no case may a prisoner subject to 10 years on parole be retained under parole supervision or in custody for a period longer than 15 years from the date of his or her initial parole.

PC 3000(b)(7): The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shall meet with each inmate at least 30 days prior to his or her good time release date and shall provide, under guidelines specified by the parole authority or the department, whichever is applicable, the conditions of parole and the length of parole up to the maximum period of time provided by law. The inmate has the right to reconsideration of the length of parole and conditions thereof by the department or the parole authority, whichever is applicable. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or the board may impose as a condition of parole that a prisoner make payments on the prisoner’s outstanding restitution fines or orders imposed pursuant to subdivision (a) or (c) of Section 13967 of the Government Code, as operative prior to September 28, 1994, or subdivision (b) or (f) of Section 1202.4.

PC 3000(b)(10): It is the intent of the Legislature that efforts be made with respect to persons who are subject to Section 290.011 who are on parole to engage them in treatment.