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The Nuances of Parole Violations in New Jersey

Parole serves as a bridge for reintegrating individuals back into society after incarceration, with the goal of reducing recidivism and promoting public safety. However, the conditions of parole are strict, reflecting the balance between giving parolees a second chance and ensuring community safety. Understanding the nuances of parole violations is essential for parolees and their families to navigate this complex process effectively.

Parole violations are unfortunately common in New Jersey, and the circumstances of these violations often present significant challenges for those facing these proceedings. We recommend hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney who has handled these types of proceedings.  When charged with a parole violation, a defendant faces the grim possibility of having their parole revoked, which means they can be returned to prison until their maximum release date. The parole board makes the crucial determination of whether to reinstate parole or send the individual back to prison. 

Typically, parolees are arrested and returned to prison at the initiation of revocation proceedings by the State. Importantly, parolees do receive credit toward their sentence for each day they spend in custody awaiting their revocation hearing. However, there are actions that can be taken prior to a hearing which increase your chances of not returning to prison. 

Parole Officers Have Discretion on Whether to File a Parole Violation

Parole officers in New Jersey possess considerable discretion in deciding whether to initiate parole revocation proceedings. Minor violations, such as missing a scheduled meeting with an officer on one occasion, generally do not lead to revocation. The State typically only initiates proceedings if it believes the parolee’s conduct demonstrates a failure to adhere to the material terms of parole. This can result from a single serious violation or a series of smaller ones that collectively indicate a willful disregard of parole obligations. Generally, if someone is brought under violation proceedings, it means that the parole officer and their supervisor have concluded that some period of incarceration is warranted. As a defense attorney, I often disagree with their conclusions on reincarceration. 

Parole officers play a critical role in monitoring compliance with parole conditions. They are tasked with ensuring parolees abide by the rules set forth by the parole board. This includes regular check-ins, random drug tests, and home visits. Officers are trained to detect signs of non-compliance and make judgments about the severity and intent behind violations. Their recommendations carry significant weight in revocation proceedings, making it crucial for parolees to maintain a positive relationship with their officers. If you are violated, a positive relationship can go a long way in any ultimate parole revocation. 

The Parole Revocation Hearing Process

Parole revocation hearings in New Jersey are particularly challenging for defendants. The hearing is overseen by another parole officer, who acts as the fact-finder. This officer will evaluate the testimony and evidence presented before making a written recommendation to the full parole board. Given that a parole officer serves as the fact-finder, adopting a persuasive rather than confrontational strategy is often the best approach in our experience. However, there are times when acting aggressively, especially in light of a minor violation or one that can’t be proven, will help avoid a revocation. 

These hearings differ significantly from regular court trials. The procedural rules are more relaxed, and the standard of proof is lower. The focus is not on proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt but on determining whether a parolee violated the conditions of their parole by a preponderance of the evidence. This makes the defense strategy crucial, as it must effectively counter the allegations with credible evidence and testimony.

What Types of Evidence and Testimony Are Permitted in Revocation Hearings? 

Unlike regular criminal trials, the government can rely on hearsay and other types of evidence that are not admissible in standard proceedings. During the hearing, the parolee’s officer will testify regarding any violations, which may include failure to report, failed drug tests, unauthorized travel out of state, or new criminal charges. 

The defendant’s attorney is allowed to cross-examine the parole officer, question the defendant, introduce exhibits or evidence, and call witnesses to support the defense. The types of evidence presented can vary widely. For instance, failed drug tests might include lab reports and testimony from technicians. Unauthorized travel might be substantiated by surveillance footage, travel records, or witness statements. 

New criminal charges will involve police reports and possibly testimonies from law enforcement officers. Understanding the nature of the evidence and preparing to challenge it effectively is a cornerstone of a strong defense strategy.

What is the Role of Discovery in a Revocation Hearing? 

Once an attorney enters their appearance in the case, they receive discovery from the State. This includes detailed information on the alleged violations, photos, lab reports, and other essential documents, as well as the parolee’s complete report history with their parole officer. 

Thoroughly reviewing this material is crucial, as it allows the attorney to build a strong defense. For instance, it would be challenging to argue that a defendant was a good parolee if the reports consistently show non-cooperation. Conversely, if the reports indicate that the parolee was working, reporting regularly, and passing drug tests, the attorney can obtain favorable testimony from the parole officer.

The discovery process is an essential phase in preparing for the revocation hearing. It provides the defense with the opportunity to identify weaknesses in the State’s case and to gather evidence that supports the parolee’s compliance and rehabilitation efforts. Effective use of discovery can make the difference between a successful defense and revocation.

Preparation for the Revocation Hearing

Preparation is key for a parole revocation hearing in New Jersey, as the stakes are incredibly high – the outcome can result in months or even years of additional incarceration. An attorney should meticulously go over the allegations with their client and devise a strategic plan for the hearing. This includes gathering exculpatory or mitigating evidence and preparing the client for the questions they will face. Mitigating evidence can include character letters from family or friends, proof of employment, and proof of substance abuse counseling. 

Preparation involves several critical steps. First, reviewing the parole conditions and understanding the specific allegations is essential. Next, gathering supporting documents, such as employment records, drug test results, and character references, can help demonstrate the parolee’s compliance and rehabilitation. Additionally, mock hearings can be conducted to prepare the parolee for the types of questions they will face and to help them present their case confidently and coherently.

Legal Representation and Strategies of an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Legal representation plays a vital role in parole revocation hearings. Experienced attorneys understand the nuances of parole law and the importance of a thorough defense strategy. They will often focus on demonstrating the parolee’s compliance and rehabilitation efforts, as well as any mitigating circumstances that could influence the board’s decision. For example, presenting evidence of steady employment, participation in rehabilitation programs, or community support can be persuasive.

Attorneys also need to be adept at cross-examining witnesses, particularly parole officers. Challenging the credibility and reliability of the officer’s testimony can be crucial, especially if there are inconsistencies or procedural errors in the reporting of violations. Additionally, attorneys may present alternative explanations for alleged violations, such as medical conditions that could explain a failed drug test or personal emergencies that led to missed check-ins.

Possible Outcomes and Consequences of a Parole Revocation Hearing in New Jersey

The possible outcomes of a parole revocation hearing can vary significantly. If the board decides to revoke parole, the parolee will return to prison to serve the remainder of their sentence. In some cases, the board may opt for intermediate sanctions, such as increased supervision or mandatory participation in a treatment program, instead of full revocation. Understanding these potential outcomes is crucial for the parolee and their attorney when preparing for the hearing.

Intermediate sanctions are often considered when the violation is less severe, and the parolee has shown overall compliance and progress. These sanctions can include increased reporting requirements, curfews, electronic monitoring, or mandatory counseling sessions. They serve as a way to correct behavior without resorting to full incarceration, aiming to support the parolee’s rehabilitation while maintaining public safety.

Post-Hearing Procedures and Appeals

If the parole board revokes parole, there are still post-hearing procedures and potential appeals that can be pursued. The parolee has the right to appeal the board’s decision, typically within a specified timeframe. An appeal must be based on specific grounds, such as procedural errors or new evidence that was not available during the initial hearing. Successful appeals can result in a new hearing or even a reversal of the revocation decision.

The appeals process involves filing a notice of appeal and presenting a detailed argument outlining the grounds for the appeal. This might include pointing out procedural errors, such as the improper admission of evidence, or presenting new evidence that could not have been obtained earlier. The appeals process can be lengthy and complex, requiring skilled legal representation to navigate effectively.

If My Parole is Revoked for a Violation, what are the Future Impacts?

A parole violation and subsequent revocation can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s future parole opportunities. The parole board will consider the nature and severity of the violation when evaluating future parole applications. Demonstrating genuine rehabilitation and compliance with parole conditions after a violation is essential for improving the chances of being granted parole again in the future.

Future parole opportunities are influenced by the parolee’s behavior during the revocation period. Demonstrating a commitment to rehabilitation, such as completing educational or vocational programs, maintaining good behavior in prison, and engaging in community service, can positively impact future parole applications. Parolees need to understand that their actions post-violation are scrutinized closely and can determine their chances of early release in the future.

Support Systems and Resources for Parolees

Support systems and resources are vital for helping parolees avoid violations and successfully reintegrate into society. These may include access to job training programs, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and community support groups. Effective support can significantly reduce the risk of parole violations and contribute to a smoother transition from incarceration to community life.

Programs designed to support parolees focus on addressing the underlying issues that may lead to violations. For example, substance abuse treatment programs provide essential support for individuals struggling with addiction, while job training programs help parolees gain the skills needed to secure stable employment. Mental health services address psychological issues that may contribute to criminal behavior. Community support groups offer a network of peers who understand the challenges of reentry and can provide encouragement and guidance.

The Importance of Understanding Parole Conditions

Many parole violations occur due to misunderstandings or lack of awareness about the specific conditions of parole. It is crucial for parolees to fully understand their obligations and seek clarification from their parole officer if needed. Regular communication with the parole officer and adherence to all conditions can help prevent inadvertent violations.

Parole conditions can include a range of requirements, such as maintaining employment, abstaining from drug and alcohol use, attending regular meetings with the parole officer, and complying with curfews. Understanding these conditions and their importance is essential for avoiding violations. Parolees should keep detailed records of their compliance, such as documenting job search efforts, keeping appointment confirmations, and maintaining a log of their interactions with their parole officer. This documentation can be invaluable in demonstrating compliance if a violation is alleged.

Contact Lackey & Miller

Parole violations in New Jersey present serious challenges, but with proper legal representation and a strategic approach, parolees can navigate the complexities of revocation hearings. Understanding the process, preparing thoroughly, and utilizing available resources are key steps in achieving a favorable outcome. For those facing parole violation proceedings, seeking experienced legal counsel is essential to protecting their rights and future prospects.

Navigating the parole system requires diligence, awareness, and support. By leveraging the available resources, adhering to parole conditions, and seeking skilled legal representation, parolees can improve their chances of successfully reintegrating into society and avoiding future violations. For families and supporters, understanding the challenges and providing ongoing support can make a significant difference in helping parolees stay on the right path.

If you or a family member is on parole and have received a parole violation notice or are incarcerated pending a parole violation, contact our experienced attorneys at Lackey & Miller, LLC or give us a call at (856) 399-0089 to discuss your options.

Jeremy Lackey

Written By Jeremy Lackey

Partner

Jeremy Lackey is a seasoned criminal attorney who served as an Assistant Prosecutor for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and as a Deputy Attorney General for New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Criminal Justice, before co-founding the firm Lackey & Miller, LLC.

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