How Does the Utah Board of Pardons Decide Which Inmates Qualify for Parole?

Not all inmates in Utah qualify for parole, or early release from prison.  In this article, Salt Lake City parole violation lawyer Darwin Overson explains how the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole (BOPP) makes decisions about which inmates should be granted parole – and when parole should be denied.

How the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole Evaluates Inmates for Release from Prison

The BOPP’s decision-making process weighs five sentencing variables:

  1. Total (“aggregate”) sentence. The BOPP adds up all of the sentences that were ordered by the court, which are explained in our article on Utah criminal sentencing guidelines.  For example, let’s say a defendant has been sentenced for two second degree felonies, such as robbery and carrying a concealed firearm.  In Utah, second degree felonies carry a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 15 years.  Therefore, the total sentence would range from two years (two one-year sentences) to 30 years (two 15-year sentences).
  2. Credit for time served (CTS). The BOPP counts time the inmate served in custody before the current sentence.  For example, let’s say an inmate comes to prison on March 1, but has already accumulated 90 days of CTS.  The BOPP would then move the inmate’s start date back by 90 days to January 1 to reflect CTS.
  3. When the sentence expires. By using the total sentence and start date described above, the BOPP is able to determine an expiration date for the sentence – in other words, the maximum possible duration of all of the sentences the inmate has received.
  4. The maximum sentence. Under state law, inmates are required to serve their full sentence unless the BOPP grants parole.
  5. Utah sentencing guidelines. The BOPP reviews Utah’s sentencing guidelines, comparing the inmate’s sentence against sentencing for other offenders who had similar convictions and criminal records.

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What Factors Does the BOPP Consider When Making a Parole Determination?

In addition to the general sentencing factors described above, the BOPP also considers numerous inmate-specific factors which can vary widely from one case to the next (and sometimes, aren’t even applicable), including:

  • How many victims were harmed by the offense, and to what extent.
  • How the offender behaved after committing the crime. For example, did he or she cooperate with police, or attempt to flee the state?
  • Impact on the victim(s).
  • Recommendations from the court which originally imposed the sentence.
  • The extent to which the inmate expresses remorse for his or her actions.
  • The inmate’s mental and physical health.
  • The inmate’s criminal record.
  • The offender’s history of compliance with parole, if he or she has prior offenses. A history of parole violations will damage the inmate’s chances of being released from prison.
  • The nature and severity of the offense.
  • Whether releasing the inmate would create a safety risk for the general public.
  • Whether the offender has consistently made good faith efforts to pay restitution to the victim.
  • Whether the offender has strong support that will make successful reintegration more likely (e.g. employment prospects, positive family relationships).
  • Whether the offense involved use of a weapon.
  • Whether the inmate had any serious disciplinary actions or behavioral problems while incarcerated, such as assaulting other inmates.

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What Are the Possible Outcomes of a Parole Hearing in Salt Lake City?

A hearing before the BOPP can result in several different outcomes – some of which are more favorable than others.  A Utah parole hearing will result in one of the following determinations:

  • Parole denied. The inmate will not be released.
  • Parole granted. Once released, the parolee will be subject to supervision by a parole officer from Adult Probation & Parole (AP&P).  He or she will be required to comply with standard or special conditions of parole, depending on the nature and severity of the offense.
  • Rehearing scheduled. If parole is denied, the BOPP may schedule a future rehearing date when the inmate can seek release again.  In some cases, the BOPP will schedule a rehearing to allow time for certain inmates, such as offenders convicted of sex crimes in Utah, to complete mandatory treatment and counseling.
  • Termination of sentence. The sentence is discharged before completion.

If one of your family members is seeking parole, you might also be interested in our article on how to prepare for a parole hearing in Utah.

Questions About Parole in Utah? Call Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

If one of your loved ones has been charged with parole violations or probation violations in Utah, or if you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, you need an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer to provide aggressive representation and legal guidance.  To set up a free legal consultation, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287.  Defense attorney Darwin Overson has over 16 years of experience handling misdemeanors, felonies, and criminal matters related to parole and probation throughout the state of Utah.