Sentencing and State Parole Violations
Many people misunderstand how criminal sentences work. As a result, defendants often struggle during plea bargain negotiations to realize what a particular sentencing range actually means in terms of time in prison. Typically, Pennsylvania state court prison sentences are handed down in terms of a range. Whether you serve the top end, bottom end or somewhere in between depends on a variety of factors. What’s more, the parole process can allow certain offenders to gain conditional release after serving only a portion of their sentences.
A person becomes eligible for parole after serving a minimum term that is usually fixed by the judge as part of his or her sentence. Parole is a privilege, not a right, so you are not guaranteed to be released upon the expiration of your minimum sentence. For those in the custody of the state Department of Corrections, the process begins shortly before an inmate becomes eligible:
- About eight months prior to your eligibility, the Parole Board begins compiling a file that includes your conviction record, your prior criminal history and your prison record.
- About five months prior to your eligibility, you begin working with a parole agent to compile a reentry plan for submission to the board.
- About four months prior to eligibility, one or more board members or hearing examiners representing the board meet with you personally for an interview. Those decision makers render a non-appealable decision as to whether you should be paroled.
- If the board grants parole, it usually comes with a number of conditions attached, such as maintaining employment, keeping up with restitution or support payments, abstaining from drugs or alcohol and taking part in treatment.
- Upon release, you must report to your parole officer and continue to abide by the terms of your parole. Minor violations may result in stricter parole conditions. More serious violations may result in a return to prison.
An experienced Reading area defense attorney can advise you of your likelihood of receiving parole upon completion of your minimum sentence.