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Understanding the Parole Denial Appeals Process in Texas

Parole Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Understanding the Parole Denial Appeals Process in Texas

Texas state laws give some offenders in prison the opportunity to be granted parole before they finish their sentences. For those who are denied parole, however, they may not want to wait until their next parole hearing to be released from prison. When you have been turned down for parole, you can decide if it is worth appealing this decision by learning more about the Texas parole denial appeals process.

Have you or someone you know recently been denied parole?
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The Parole Review Process

In the state of Texas, the decision whether or not to grant parole to eligible people in prison falls to the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles. The members on this board are obligated to review each parole case that comes before them. They must weigh an extensive array of criteria before deciding whether or not to grant parole to an offender.

They also must be clear in their decision about granting or denying someone the opportunity for parole. They are required to outline their decision making process by using a coded list of criteria that is mandated by the state of Texas. These codes allow offenders and their attorneys to know exactly why they were granted or denied parole from prison.

Parole Approval or Denial Criteria

The generic codes that the Board of Pardons and Paroles in Texas must use cover a broad set of circumstances that is applied to every offender who comes up for parole. These circumstances determine whether or not an offender can or should be released into the community or if it is better for that person to remain in prison to finish out his or her sentence.

One of the primary considerations for granting or denying parole is the person’s criminal history. The board members must determine if the person has a documented history for committing violent crimes like assault.

If the person’s record shows a history of repeated criminal episodes, the board may interpret this as the offender having a predisposition for violence and posing a serious risk to the community. In this instance, the person would be denied parole.

Another criteria taken into consideration is the nature of the offense for which the person was imprisoned. The board will review whether or not the crime was violent or non-violent in nature. If the crime was not a violent one but rather one that involved activities like possession of drugs or embezzlement, the person could be paroled sooner than someone who was convicted of a violent offense.

The person’s history of using drugs and alcohol will also come under review by the board. Someone who was high or drunk while committing the crime for which he or she was imprisoned may be put under more scrutiny than someone who was sober. The board must consider whether or not this person will return to abusing drugs or alcohol if he or she is paroled. Someone with a history of extensive and repeated drug or alcohol use may not be granted parole as readily.

Likewise, a person’s gang affiliation could also work against the offender who is up for parole. Board of Pardons and Paroles members are not as quick to grant parole to known gang members because of the risk they pose to the community. Someone who has disavowed his or her gang affiliation may find it easier to be granted parole than someone who remains an active gang member.

Finally, the board reviews offenders’ behavior and disciplinary records while they were in prison. They look for how well potential parolees behaved while during the time they were incarcerated. They also take into consideration whether or not offenders had any new charges especially felony charges added to their record during their imprisonments.

The length of time offenders have spent in prison is another topic that comes up during the parole hearing. The board members must determine if the amount of time served is congruent with the crime that was committed as well as the person’s overall criminal history. Offenders who served years or decades in prison might be eligible for parole sooner than people who have only served a few years behind bars.

For offenders who were released into the community, the parole board reviews how well they behaved during periods of:

  • Mandatory supervision
  • Parole
  • Probation

People who obeyed the rules for their early release and successfully integrated back into society are less likely to have their paroles revoked and sent back to prison.

These are some of the main considerations that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles must utilize before granting someone parole. They must be clearly detailed by the board after it decides whether or not to deny parole to an offender.

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Reasons to Appeal Parole Denial

People imprisoned in Texas are only allowed to appeal their parole denial under a limited set of circumstances. For many individuals, these circumstances do not apply to their cases. They simply must wait until their next parole hearing to find out if they will be released early from prison.

However, the Board of Pardons and Paroles will hear appeals for people who can meet the stringent appeals process criteria. For example, if an offender can establish that the board did not closely review the presented information or failed to notice something important, the board may grant that person a parole appeal. This new information can only come from trial officials or victims or a change in the offender’s sentence or judgment, however.

The second circumstance that meets the appeals parole criteria is an administrative file processing error. If incorrect information is presented to the board, the board must grant the offender an appeal.

An example of this information can include the board being told that the offender did not participate in a program when in fact he or she did enroll in it. Likewise, it can involve the offender requesting a parole interview that did not take place prior to the parole hearing.

If you believe you have good reason to appeal your parole denial, you should retain the services of an experienced attorney who specializes in this area of law. Your lawyer can help you prepare a motion to reopen, which must be filed within 45 days of your parole being revoked. This motion to reopen gives you the chance to present new evidence to the board or clarify evidence that should have been excluded during the hearing.

Your attorney can also help you file a state or federal writ. State writ are rarely used since most parole denials revolve around federal constitutional matters. A federal writ is a petition the federal court alleging that your constitutional rights have been violated.

In Texas, a federal writ can be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. The board must implement the remedy mandated by the court if the writ is granted.

By knowing how and when to appeal the denial of your parole, you could be granted release from prison sooner. This information could also help you prepare for your next parole hearing. You could get the results you want during that hearing or appeal the denial successfully by retaining an experienced attorney to assist you in your case.

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