When a Minnesota prison inmate is placed on parole, it means that he or she is still under sentencing but serving time outside of confinement. A parolee has to agree to certain terms and conditions upon his or her release from prison. Any parole violation can result in the parolee facing charges, and he or she may even be sent back to prison. But before parole is revoked, the parolees are entitled to a Minnesota parole revocation hearing. Read on to understand Minnesota parole law, revocation hearings, and how the attorneys at Ringstrom Law can help you with your case.
Understanding Minnesota Parole Law
Unlike most states, parole in Minnesota is not governed by a Governor-appointed board. Instead, individuals qualify for parole based on the term of their sentences. Sentences must have a scheduled release date as well as a period of supervision to ease the process of reintegration following an individual’s release. Annual progress reports are maintained by agents so they can keep track of each offender’s character and quality. However, an agent cannot make a recommendation for early release. If the offender was sentenced with the old sentencing guideline, the agent may recommend the inmate for early release based on performance reviews and progress results.
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 the release.
Under Minnesota’s parole system, there’s not a parole board of any sort and no time off for good behavior. Also, Minnesota does not sanction early dismissal or parole for offenders sentenced to determinate sentences. However, some inmates may be eligible for work release privileges toward the completion of their sentences. Typically, offers are put on parole after they’ve served two-thirds of their sentence, and then they’ll serve the remaining part on supervised release.While the parole system in Minnesota is slightly different from other states, the aspect of supervision following an individual’s release is similar.
Minnesota employs agents for surveillance and monitoring of released offenders. There should be constant contact between the agent and the offender. The agents work with the offender and or their institutional caseworker to formulate a plan of release before the scheduled date. The agent’s role is to confirm that the parolee is complying with the terms and conditions of his/her supervised release. They also supervise parolees coming from correctional facilities in other states. Following any violation, the Hearings and Release Unit may issue a warrant to have the offender taken back into custody. These issuances are discretionary and based on the facts of each case. Individuals who received indeterminate sentences are subject to an extended length of supervised release if found to be in violation of their parole.
Minnesota Board of Pardons Parole
As previously mentioned, Minnesota does not currently have a Parole Board. Following the introduction of sentencing guidelines in 1980, judges set the terms of release for each inmate, including the dates of supervised release.Some cases are exceptional, such as those involving inmates released to specialized programs, but the majority of the inmates abide by the conditions set by the court at the time of sentencing. However, the term of imprisonment can be lengthened if an inmate breaks the rules while in custody.It’s worth noting that the system of guidelines does not cover life sentences.
Minnesota abolished its formal parole board in 1982. The closest entity to this board is the Hearing and Release Unit, which works with agents in collecting information and making appropriate decisions concerning the supervision of an inmate following release. This unit also decides work release provisions and conditions before the truth in sentencing law.
Common Minnesota Parole Terms and Conditions
Before diving into the whole issue of Minnesota parole revocation hearings, it’s important that we address the kind of terms and conditions that are usually levied in line with parole. Below are examples of some of the most common conditions:
- Agreeing to live within designated county limits and not living without the permission of your parole agent
- Consenting to conditions associated with specific offenses. For instance, these may include restrictions that prohibit association with gang members, accessing the internet, or using weapons.
- Agreeing to be searched by the police officer at any given time with or without probable cause or a Minnesota search warrant
- Consenting to register with local authorities. This usually applies to individuals convicted of drug crimes and sex crimes.
- Avoiding contact with victims, if your offense involved an act of violence
- Accepting to be electronically monitored
- Submitting to random testing for drugs and alcohol
- Keeping in contact with the parole agent
It’s important to note that some of these restrictions are offense specific. They aren’t general parole conditions imposed on all parolees –they are only prescribed if the specific offense permits a condition of this nature. Apart from the aforementioned terms and conditions, parolees in Minnesota are prohibited from violating any other laws. If a parolee is found to have committed another crime even if no criminal conviction is sustained, the Department of Corrections can set a Minnesota parole violation hearing and even send the parolee back to the correctional facility.
Example: James is on parole, and one of the conditions is that he shouldn’t violate any laws. James gets arrested for Driving Without a Valid License. His defense attorney wins a “not guilty” verdict at jury trial. Nonetheless, James can still be charged with Minnesota parole violation because he violated a criminal law while on parole.
Examples of Parole Violations in Minnesota
One can violate parole in numerous ways, including:
- Failure to submit to mandatory drug and alcohol testing
- Curfew violation
- Failure to report to your officer as scheduled
- Failure to attend anger management classes
- Being arrested for a new offense (regardless of whether it’s criminal or not)
- Getting behind the wheels without an installed ignition interlock device or breathalyzer
- Failure to report to your re-entry or work program
- Failure to ordered therapy or Alcoholic Anonymous meetings or numerous times a week
- Owning or carrying a weapon
- Associating with known criminal 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
Minnesota Parole Violation or Revocation Hearings
Before a parolee is sent back to a correctional facility or even subject to additional penalties as a result of parole violation, he/she is entitled to legal due process. This gives you the right to a hearing and the right to defend yourself. You also have the right to hear the evidence presented against you and cross-examine witnesses.
The process begins with a preliminary hearing. This hearing must be held within a reasonable time before a district supervisor or executive officer of hearings and release. If out of custody, the releasee is given written notice and receives reasonable time to build a defense. Documentary evidence and witnesses may be presented and witnesses cross-examined. Areleasee can answer questions and make statements, even though he or she not obligated to do so.The next step involves a probable cause hearing, where the DOC seeks to determine if there’s probable cause to proceed with the parole revocation hearing. If probable cause established, a parole revocation hearing is held to determine whether the paroleeviolates the conditions of parole as well as the penalties for any proven violation.
Parole violation hearings in Minnesota must be initiated by summons or warrants for the apprehension of parolees, work releasees, and supervised releasees who have allegedly violated the conditions of their release or have committed a criminal act while on released supervision. In a parole revocation hearing, parolees have the right to a Minnesota criminal defense attorney, disclosure of adverse evidence, a notice of the alleged violation, right to cross-examine and confront witnesses, and a written decision explaining the outcome of the hearing. The hearing process will be considered concluded when the court dismisses the charges, the offender is found not guilty, or the offender completes any incarceration time imposed by the court.
Categories of Release Violations
Issues concerning parole violators have centered around two types: those violators who return to prison due toa technical violation and those who return due to a conviction for a new crime. A technical violation of supervised release is criminality or misbehavior by an offender on parole and may include new criminal offenses that have not resulted in a conviction. The standard of proof in parole violation cases is not as high as that one required in criminal trials. As such, enough proof that an offender’s criminal act poses a risk to public safety might exist for purposes of a parole revocation hearing but not for a new criminal conviction.A detailed look at “technical violators” is found under Minnesota Rules, Chapter 2940, which highlights 5 categories of parole violations. These categories determine and establish authorization for a parolee to be returned to prison or have their release plan restructures based on the severity of his or her violation. The parole violation categories include:
A supervising agent can make a request to the Department of corrections to have an offender’s parole conditions restructured. Offenders must also request the modification of special or standard conditions of their parole. The DOC will review the request for conditions restructuring and give a verdict by using 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 parole, the inmate can be incarcerated for a maximum of six months of prison time, inclusive of time spent in jail as a result of the violation.
Misdemeanor convictions are classified as Severity Level II violations. Without aggravating factors, the disposition for such a violation is to modify the conditions of parole. Gross misdemeanor convictions are Level III violations, punishable by parole revocation, unless mitigating factors exist. Parole violation resulting in a conviction for misdemeanor/gross misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of 6 months in prison. When aggravating factors are present, the inmate can be incarcerated for 90-120 days.
Item C of Minnesota Rules, Part 2940.3800 authorizes an offender’s imprisonment for a period of 6 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 parole 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 parole violations or risk to public safety for an offender to be classified in this manner. If found to have violated his or her parole, an offender may be reincarcerated, depending on the type of violation, time remaining to be served, as well as his/her 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 parole for 150 days.
Winning a Minnesota Parole Violation/ Revocation Hearing
A parolee in Minnesota has the right to his or her criminal defense attorney, witnesses, as well as the opportunity to present their ownevidence or challenge the state’s evidence. What’s more, the parolee’s agent also gets to testify about the parolee’s success or failure while on parole. Depending on specific facts of the case, the agents may recommend that the parolee should be returned to prison or be allowed to remain on parole. A skilled Minnesota criminal defense attorney knows the most effective strategies to defend the charges and obtain the best possible outcome.
Some of the evidentiary procedures in parole revocation hearings are more relaxed when compared to criminal trials. Some pieces of evidence that would be excluded in a criminal trial may be used in a parole violation hearing. This is known as hearsay evidence and may include things like letters, notes, and affidavits. Also, the burden of proof in parole revocation hearings is a much lesser standard that is required in criminal cases. Parole hearings require a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that there’s no logical explanation other than the fact that it’s more likely than not the parolee violated the conditions.The reason for requiring a lesser burden of proof is because parole is considered an extension of incarceration, not an equivalent to freedom. In essence, parolees are not entitled to the same level of protection as individuals who have not yet been convicted of a crime. This is why it’s critical to have a Minnesota parole revocation lawyer who understands how to fight these charges aggressively.
Some of the most common defense strategies employ in parole violation cases include:
- False allegations from a past victim who is not happy with your release, an ex-lover who does not want you around, or a cop who has a grudge against parolees
- You were falsely accused because you fit the description of another notorious suspect, you were hanging out with individuals who engaged in an unlawful activity (but you were not), or you were framed by a jealous, angry, or vengeful individual.
- Your due process rights were violated. This can override any wrongdoing on your part.
- There were mitigating circumstances. If you can prove the violation was minor or that you’re not a danger to the public, you may be given another chance to remain on parole.
Find a Minnesota Parole Violation Attorney Near Me
If you’re facing a possible parole revocation, call an experienced Minnesota parole violation attorney before matters escalate. A lawyer at Ringstrom Law will work very hard to put things rights and protect you and your freedom. We are committed to making sure your truth is heard. We will carefully review the evidence tabled against you and search for more evidence thatcould support your side of the story. If we can show that you were a victim of mistaken identity, were falsely accused, or your rights were violated, we should be able to get your parole reinstated. And if the prosecution’s case is strong, we can still help by presenting arguments to convince the court to restructure your parole instead of revoking it.
Don’t give away your freedom. Get in touch with an experienced Minnesota parole violation attorney at Ringstrom Law to get started with a free initial consultation and get the legal expertise you need for the fight of your life. Call us at 218-284-0484 or fill out our online contact form.