Can You Be Sent Back to Jail for a Parole Violation in Utah?

When an inmate in Utah is granted parole, or early release from prison, he or she is required to comply with certain rules and conditions, similar to a person on probation.  As Salt Lake City parole violation lawyer Darwin Overson explains in this article, parolees who violate their conditions of release can face serious criminal consequences – including the possibility of being reincarcerated.

Utah Parole Violation Consequences Can Include Reincarceration in Prison

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Conditions of parole are determined and enforced by the Utah Department of Corrections and the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole (BOPP).  Different conditions apply to different inmates, depending on factors like the nature and severity of the offense.  For example, stricter standards apply to inmates who were convicted of sex crimes, with the strictest conditions applying to sex offenders convicted of crimes against minors, such as sexual abuse of a minor or unlawful sexual activity with a minor.  Generally speaking, standard conditions of parole include remaining in Utah, obeying a curfew, and avoiding criminal activity, among other requirements.

If a parolee violates these or other conditions of parole, he or she may face severe penalties, depending on factors like the nature and seriousness of the violation.  If the violation is minor, the BOPP may allow the offender to continue with parole – albeit subject to harsher requirements – which is called an “alternative event.”  However, if the violation is serious, a warrant may be issued for the parolee’s arrest.  In other words, the parolee will be taken back to prison.

In fact, the majority of Utah’s inmates are incarcerated due to parole (and probation) violations – close to 70% as of 2013, according to an audit of Adult Probation and Parole.  The northern part of the state – including Salt Lake County, Cache County, Davis County, Tooele County, Weber County, and Summit County – has the highest concentration of inmates who are incarcerated for parole and probation violations.  According to Pew data released last year, “Almost half of [Utah] inmates (46%) released from state prisons returned within three years.”

What Happens at a Parole Violation Hearing? What Legal Rights Does a Parolee Have?

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If a parolee is accused of committing a violation, he or she will be scheduled for a parole violation hearing before the BOPP.  Utah Code § 64-13-29(1)(b) guarantees timely hearings for alleged parole violators who are being detained, providing the following:

“In cases where the [D]epartment [of Corrections] desires to detain an offender alleged to have violated his [or her] parole… and where it is unlikely that the [BOPP] or court will conduct a hearing within a reasonable time… the [D]epartment shall hold an administrative hearing within a reasonable time, unless the hearing is waived by the parolee… to determine if there is probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred.”

Additionally, Utah Code § 64-13-29(2) prohibits the Department of Corrections from detaining an alleged violator for more than 72 hours.  However, Utah Code § 64-13-29(3) allows the Department of Corrections to “detain the offender for a reasonable period of time after the hearing… to arrange for the incarceration of the offender” if there is probable cause to believe the parolee committed a violation.

At the hearing itself, the parolee will have the opportunity to deny or confess to the alleged violation, similar to pleading guilty or not guilty at an arraignment.  If the parolee denies the allegations, the BOPP will schedule another hearing called an evidentiary hearing to determine whether a violation occurred.

If the alleged violation involves a criminal act, the parolee also risks being charged with a new crime.  For example, if the violation involved controlled substances like marijuana, methamphetamine, or heroin, the parolee might be charged with an offense like drug possession.  In this type of scenario, the new charge would be handled by one of Utah’s criminal courts, not before the BOPP.  However, if the parolee is convicted of the new offense, the BOPP will have jurisdiction (legal authority) over the parole aspect of sentencing.  Otherwise, judges refer to Utah sentencing guidelines to impose a jail or prison term.

Critically, Rule 671-517-3 of the Utah Administrative Code gives parolees the right to legal representation by a criminal defense attorney.  With some exceptions, parolees generally have the right to cross examine (question) any witnesses against them, and to present their own evidence as a way of rebutting the allegations.

Our Attorneys in Utah Have the Experience to Handle Your Case

If you or one of your family members was charged with a parole violation or probation violation in Utah, it is vitally important that you are represented by a skilled defense lawyer who has experience representing parolees and probationers.  Call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free legal consultation.  While our law offices are based in Salt Lake City, parole lawyer Darwin Overson handles cases throughout the state of Utah.