Supervised Release (Parole) Violations

When a Minnesota prison inmate is released on supervision, it means that he or she is still under sentencing but serving time outside of confinement. A releasee must comply with certain terms and conditions upon his or her release from prison, and any violation may result in being sent back to prison. However, before any revocation of the release conditions, due process requires that the releasee have a formal revocation hearing. Read on to understand Minnesota supervised release and conditional release law, revocation hearings, and how the attorneys at Ringstrom Law can help you with your case. We are able to represent supervised release clients in Clay County, Becker County, and throughout Minnesota.

IMPORTANT: If an offender is arrested on an alleged supervised or conditional release violation and also has a new pending charge, the offender or anyone seeking to help the offender should talk to an attorney experienced in supervised release matters before posting any bond or bail.

Understanding Minnesota’s Supervised & Conditional Release Law

Unlike most states, supervised release and conditional release in Minnesota is not governed by a governor-appointed parole board; thus the term “parole” is not formally used in the court system. The only exceptions would be for offenses with a life sentence. Instead, Minnesota uses a determinate sentencing system for offenders not sentenced to life. Determinate sentencing means a pronounced number of months of incarceration. Offenders serving a determinate sentence qualify for a form of supervised release based on the length of the sentence imposed. Every offender who enters a correctional facility with a defined term of confinement, which is basically a certain number of months, will generally know to the day when they may anticipate being released. The correctional facility will calculate that release date, which becomes the scheduled release date (SRD) for the offender. Generally the SRD is the point at which the offender has served two-thirds of his or her sentence. In most cases, the remaining one-third of the term of the sentence will be a supervised release term in the community.  

Certain offenses such as DWIs and some criminal sexual conduct offenses have a different form of release. That type of release is called conditional release. An offender subject to conditional release will have his or her SRD calculated in the same manner as other offenders, that is after two-thirds of the pronounced number of months. However, the term of conditional release, unlike supervised release, will be longer than the last one-third of the term of incarceration. The length of a term of conditional release is not a function of the length of sentence imposed, but rather a function of the nature of the offense for which the offender was imprisoned.   

Annual progress reports for each offender are maintained by agents so they can keep track of offenders’ conduct and rehabilitation. However, an agent cannot make a recommendation for early release unless the offender was sentenced under older sentencing guidelines. Then, the agent may recommend the inmate for early release based on performance reviews and progress results.

The supervision of an offender on either type of release, supervised or conditional, serves to ease the process of an offender’s reintegration into the community. Before an offender is released, assessment plans are put in place, and offenders are required to take part in various institutional programs so as to facilitate successful reintegration. Projected release plans, needs, assessments, and recommended programs become part of the offender’s case file and should be submitted within 60 days of an offender’s admission to a correctional facility. The reports must address the offender’s sexual deviancy, chemical dependency, and psychological disorders. A program review team will analyze reports for offenders whose sentences are nearing termination. This should be completed 45 to 60 days before the scheduled release date. A final review will set all the conditions that an inmate will be expected to comply with upon release.

Under Minnesota’s system of determinate sentencing, although there is not a program where good behavior will accelerate an offender’s release, inappropriate behavior can result in an adjustment to an offender’s SRD.  Also, Minnesota does not sanction early discharge for offenders sentenced to determinate sentences. But some inmates may be eligible for work release privileges toward the completion of their sentences. Work release is typically performed in a community close to the offender’s home area. It usually does not become available to an offender until an offender is within six months of his or her SRD and unless his or her behavior was exemplary. 

Minnesota employs agents to monitor offenders who are on supervised or conditional release. It is required that there be regular contact between the agent and the offender. The agents work with the offender and sometimes their institutional caseworker as well to formulate a plan of release before the SRD. The agent’s role thereafter is to confirm that the released offender is complying with the terms and conditions of supervised release. Agents also supervise offenders released from correctional facilities in other states who have been able to arrange a transfer of supervision from that state to Minnesota. 

If an agent believes that an offender has violated one or more conditions of the terms of supervision, the agent may seek an arrest warrant from the Hearing and Release Unit of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. The Hearings and Release Unit may then issue a warrant to have the offender taken back into custody. These decisions are discretionary and based on the facts of each case.

Minnesota’s Hearings and Release Unit

(Please see the bail or bond warning at the top of this page.) 

As previously mentioned, Minnesota does not currently use a parole board for offenders given a determinate sentence (the vast majority of offenders). Following the introduction of sentencing guidelines in 1980, judges generally, absent unusual circumstances, pronounced a specific number of months of incarceration based on a grid system designed to take into consideration a person's history and the severity of the offense. Based on the sentence imposed, the history of the offender, and any treatment needs, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections will determine where an offender will serve his or her sentence. In addition, the commissioner, through his or her agents at the various facilities, will determine the scheduled release date (SRD) for each offender who is serving a determinate sentence as well as the terms of supervision (supervised or conditional) and the expiration dates. 

The SRD is calculated to occur at the point at which the offender has served the first two-thirds of his or her sentence in a correctional facility. Some cases are exceptional, such as those involving inmates released under specialized programs, but the majority of offenders are subject to the standard two-thirds/one-third release calculation.

The closest Minnesota entity to a parole board is the Hearing and Release Unit, which works with agents in collecting information and making decisions concerning the supervision of an inmate following release. The HRU has a number of hearing officers who are charged with the responsibility of determining if a violation of a condition of release has occurred and what the appropriate disposition for an individual offender should be. These hearing officers are also assigned to determine the merits and disposition of many violations alleged to have occurred within a DOC facility.

HRU hearing officers are not required to be attorneys, but they are individuals with extensive experience in the field of corrections. Those hearing officers are supervised by the executive officer of HRU, who is appointed by the commissioner of corrections.

Appeals from a decision of a hearing officer adverse to an offender are made to the executive officer of HRU and are subject to a strict timeline. Only after an appeal to the executive officer may an offender seek review of an adverse decision to a district court in Minnesota.

Common Minnesota Supervised Release Terms and Conditions

(Please see the bail or bond warning at the top of this page.) 

Some common terms and conditions required of offenders on supervised or conditional release are listed here. (It’s important to note that some of these restrictions are offense specific. They aren’t general release conditions imposed on all offenders, but are only prescribed for certain offenses.) 

  • A requirement to live within defined areas and not change addresses without the permission of your supervising agent
  • Report any contact with law enforcement within a narrow period of time
  • Be subject to conditions associated with specific offenses (for instance, restrictions that prohibit association with gang members, accessing the internet, cell phone use, or using weapons)
  • Be subject to being searched by a police officer at any time with or without probable cause or a Minnesota search warrant
  • Registering with local authorities (this usually applies to people convicted of certain criminal sexual conduct crimes)
  • Avoiding contact with victims, if your offense involved an act of violence (this may include victims of past offenses for which the offender has completed his or her sentence)
  • Be subject to electronic monitoring for alcohol usage
  • Be subject to GPS tracking
  • Being subject to random testing for drugs and alcohol
  • Remain in contact with the supervising agent and respond to the agent’s text messages and telephone calls

Apart from the aforementioned terms and conditions, offenders under supervision in Minnesota are prohibited from violating any other laws. If an offender is found to have committed another crime, even if no criminal conviction is sustained, the Department of Corrections HRU may conduct a violation hearing and may nevertheless return the offender to a correctional facility if a violation is found by the hearing officer to have occurred.

An example: James is on supervised release, and one of the conditions is that he shouldn’t violate any laws. James gets arrested for driving without a valid license. He may be found not guilty at trial because the case could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. A hearing officer working for the HRU, however, makes his or her decisions based upon the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. James’ conduct, which may not have been found by a jury to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, may still have included behavior that violated one or more conditions of release. Essentially, a “not guilty” verdict may not be the end of the story for an offender on some form of supervised release.

Examples of Release Violations in Minnesota

  • Failure to submit to mandatory drug and alcohol testing
  • Curfew violation
  • Threatening behavior
  • Failure to report to an agent as scheduled
  • Failure to attend anger management classes
  • Being arrested for a new offense (even a petty misdemeanor)
  • Failure to report to the supervising agent that the offender had contact with law enforcement
  • Violating drivers license restrictions by operating a motor vehicle without an installed ignition interlock device or breathalyzer
  • Failure to perform community service
  • Failure to attend ordered therapy or chemical dependency treatment or recommended group meetings
  • Owning or carrying a weapon, or having weapons in the residence
  • Associating with certain identified or other prohibited persons
  • Leaving the geographical areas defined by the authorities
  • Failure to maintain status as a student, or complete an educational program effectively 

(Please see the bail or bond warning at the top of this page.) 

Minnesota Parole Violation or Revocation Hearings

Before an offender is sent back to a correctional facility or even subject to additional consequences as a result of an alleged violation, he or she is entitled to legal due process. This gives the offender the right to deny the violation(s) and to a hearing. The offender has the right to hear the evidence presented and examine the agent presenting the violation. On some occasions, an offender may be able to present witnesses.

An offender is usually either arrested or ordered to surrender to law enforcement. A hearing is then scheduled to take place in a correctional facility, either in the community where the offender is alleged to have committed the violation or in the county where the offender is being supervised. This hearing must be held before a hearing officer within a reasonable time. This is usually within a few business days of the offender’s detention for the alleged violation. In a supervised release or conditional release revocation hearing, offenders have the right to be represented by a Minnesota criminal defense attorney; they also have a right to a notice of the alleged violation, the disclosure of adverse evidence, to cross-examine and confront witnesses (though this right is limited), and a written decision explaining the outcome of the hearing. An offender can answer questions and make statements.  

Preparation for a hearing regarding supervised or conditional release is critical and time intensive, as these hearings take place in a very short period of time. If you or someone close to you is facing one of these hearings, call an attorney at Ringstrom Law as soon as you can. 

Categories of Release Violation

(Please see the bail or bond warning at the top of this page.) 

Issues concerning release violations have centered around two types: 1) violators who return to prison due to a technical violation and 2) those who return due to a conviction for a new crime. A technical violation primarily refers to criminality or misbehavior by an offender, which may include new criminal offenses that have not resulted in a conviction. Convictions for a new offense, which may or may not carry a prison sentence, are more serious violations of an offender’s release conditions. The standard of proof in release violation cases is not as high as required in criminal trials. For that reason, enough proof that an offender’s criminal act poses a risk to public safety might exist for purposes of a supervised or conditional release revocation hearing, but not for a new criminal conviction.

A detailed look at technical violations is found under Minnesota Rules, Chapter 2940, which highlights several categories of violations. These categories determine and establish authorization for an offender to be returned to prison or have a release plan restructured based on the severity of his or her violation. The categories are

A supervising agent can make a request to the Department of Corrections Hearings and Release Unit (HRU) to have an offender’s release conditions restructured. Offenders may also request the modification of special or standard conditions of their release either in a hearing or to their agent. The HRU will review the request for a restructure of conditions either before or during the hearing and make a determination to deny or impose some form of revised conditions or intermediate sanctions. 

A Level I or II release violation involving aggravating factors can be eligible for revocation. If the DOC revokes the release, the offender can be returned for a period of prison time, inclusive of time spent in jail as a result of the violation.  The offender is then given a prospective or planned release date (PRD). A PRD does not have the same degree of certainty as an SRD, the scheduled release date.  

Misdemeanor convictions are classified as Severity Level II violations. Without aggravating factors, the disposition for such a violation is to modify the conditions of release. Gross misdemeanor convictions are Level III violations, and may be punishable by release revocation unless mitigating factors exist. When aggravating factors are present, the offender may be returned for a substantial period.

Failure to complete required treatment (such as chemical dependency or sex offender treatment) may result in a return to prison for treatment within the institution, which may require many months if not years to complete.

Item C of Minnesota Rules, Part 2940.3800 authorizes an offender’s imprisonment for a period of six months up to his or her sentence for a felony conviction. A felony conviction is a Level IV violation. The disposition is to revoke the offender’s release for 150 days if there are no significant or multiple mitigating factors.  

Item D of Minnesota Rules, Part 2940.3800 requires a finding of repeated release violations or risk to public safety for an offender to be classified in this manner. If found to have violated release, an offender may be reincarcerated, depending on the type of violation, time remaining to be served, and individual needs. The DOC classifies the category of an offender being unamenable to supervision or a threat to public safety as Severity Level IV violations, where pre­sumptive disposition is to revoke the offender’s release for 150 days.  

Winning a Violation/Revocation Hearing

An offender on supervised or conditional release in Minnesota has the right to a criminal defense attorney, witnesses, and the opportunity to present their own evidence or challenge the state’s evidence. What’s more, the offender’s agent may be required to testify about the offender’s success while on release, even after testifying about an offender’s alleged failures. Depending on the specific facts of the case, the agents may recommend that the offender be returned to prison or be allowed to remain on release. 

Some of the evidentiary procedures in parole revocation hearings are more relaxed than in criminal trials. Some pieces of evidence that would be excluded in a criminal trial may be used in a release violation hearing. This is known as hearsay evidence and may include things like letters, notes, and affidavits. Also, the burden of proof in release revocation hearings is a much lower standard that is required in criminal cases. Release hearings require a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that the test for the hearing officer is whether it is more likely than not that the offender violated the conditions of release. The reason for requiring a lesser burden of proof is that supervised release is considered an extension of incarceration, not an equivalent to freedom. In essence, offenders on supervised or conditional release are not entitled to the same level of protection as people who have not yet been convicted of a crime. This is why it’s critical to have an experienced Minnesota lawyer who understands how to fight these release violation allegations aggressively.

Some of the most common defense strategies employ in violation cases are

  • An explanation of the circumstances that show an innocent and reasonable alternative view of the facts alleged
  • Identifying evidence showing that the person who reported the claimed violation was basing their conclusion on pre-existing biases about the offender, or simply misunderstood innocent behavior, or simply was mistaken about what they claimed to have observed
  • The offender’s due process rights were violated (this can override any wrongdoing on the offender’s part)
  • If the violation clearly occurred, the misconduct still may not have been as bad as perceived
  • Mitigating circumstances: if the offender’s attorney is able to demonstrate that the violation was minor or that the offender is not a danger to the public, the offender may be given another chance to remain on release
  • Even in the case of a clear violation, such as drug or alcohol usage contrary to a specific condition, an attorney may be able to demonstrate the offender’s sincere efforts to deal with his or her chemical dependency, and possibly assist the offender in efforts to secure admission to an appropriate form of rehabilitation 

(Please see the bail or bond warning at the top of this page.) 

Find an Experienced Supervised Release Attorney Near Me

If you are facing a possible supervised release revocation, have already been arrested for a violation, or are seeking help for someone who has been arrested, call an experienced attorney before matters escalate. A lawyer at Ringstrom Law will work very hard to put things right and protect you and your freedom. We are committed to making sure your truth is heard. We will carefully review the evidence presented against you and search for more evidence that could support your side of the story. If we can show that you were a victim of mistaken identity, were falsely accused, or that your rights were violated, we should be able to secure a restructure of your conditions of supervised or conditional release. And if the agent’s case is strong, we can still help by presenting arguments to convince the hearing officer to restructure your release instead of revoking it, or to minimize the return time.

Don’t give away your freedom. Get in touch with an experienced Minnesota supervised release attorney at Ringstrom Law to get started with a free initial consultation and get the legal expertise you need. Call us at 218-284-0484 or fill out our online contact form.

MN criminal defense attorneys Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in MN & ND

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