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Parole: How an Attorney Can Help With Your Representation and Application in Texas

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Parole: How an Attorney Can Help With Your Representation and Application in Texas

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The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles decides when an inmate serving a prison sentence is suitable for community release. The question before the Texas Parole Board is to decide whether the release of an inmate might pose serious public harm.

If you’re wondering how an attorney can help with your parole representation and application in Texas, here’s the short answer. You can’t perform your own parole representation. The parole application is complex. What’s more, an experienced criminal defense attorney has the necessary skill to present the relevant information of your case file to members of the parole board. That can make a difference in the outcome of your parole hearing.

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What Factors Does the Texas Parole Board Consider?

The members of the parole board use several risk assessment models to evaluate the offender. They will review your static information, i.e. prior criminal record, including the following “static” factors:

  • Age you were first admitted to a juvenile/adult correctional facility
  • Your history of supervisory release revocations (for felonies)
  • Prior jail or prison terms served
  • Your employment history
  • The offense for which you’re serving time now

In comparison, your “dynamic” factors include:

  • Your current age
  • Whether you’re a member of a “confirmed security threat group,” or gang
  • Certified job training, educational, or vocational programs you’ve completed during your incarceration
  • Your disciplinary conduct record
  • Your current custody level in prison

The board members assign zero to 10 points on the static portion of the risk assessment and zero to nine points on the dynamic portion. A low total score reflects low risk. A higher score means you may be a greater risk to community safety:

  • A total score of three or less reflects a low-risk male or female inmate.
  • A score of four to eight is associated with moderate risk for males.
  • A score of four to nine is associated with moderate risk for females.
  • A score of nine to 15 is associated with high risk for males.
  • A score above 10 reflects high risk for females.
  • A score above of 16+ reflects the highest risk for males.
  • Females don’t have a risk value above 15.

Typically, a low-risk class is associated with non-violent crimes like identity theft. An offender serving a sentence for capital murder has the highest risk.

After the board considers both the static and dynamic factors, these are merged to create the inmate’s “Parole Guidelines Score” that reflects his or her risk level and severity rating of his or her offense:

  • An individual with a Parole Guideline Score of “1” has the lowest probability of parole success.
  • An individual with a Parole Guideline Score of “7” has the highest probability of parole success.
  • In this assessment, the higher your score, the better risk of your predicted ability to complete parole.
  • Guidelines aren’t automatic. A high score won’t guarantee parole.
  • Guidelines scores aren’t presumptive. A high score isn’t necessarily a predictor of parole success. Board members may vote against the guidelines in an individual case.

How Does an Attorney Help with Parole Issues?

If your parole board hearing is scheduled, it’s essential that you hire an experienced Houston parole attorney to represent your interests at the hearing. In Texas, a small number of parole board members travel throughout the state to conduct hearings. Generally speaking, the board won’t grant parole to an inmate unless there’s a very good reason.

In addition, parole board members aren’t going to approve your parole unless the following items are certain:

  • A family member will welcome you into their home if you’re paroled. The board won’t approve parole if you don’t have a place to live. An experienced parole attorney will present your plan, including where you plan to live after the board approves your parole. Importantly, the parole board won’t consider your decision to live with a casual partner as solid as living with a family member. That’s why it’s important for you to discuss this point with members of your family.
  • You’re prepared for release on parole. At the parole hearing, your criminal defense attorney will show that you’ve been improving yourself while in prison. For instance, if you didn’t graduate from high school, pursue the GED in jail. Participate in as many self-help opportunities in prison as you can. The parole board will look favorably upon this information. Conversely, if you haven’t pursued self-development, the parole board might count this against your application for parole.
  • You haven’t had disciplinary problems behind bars. Members of the parole board in Texas need to know that, if they approve your parole application, you’re prepared to abide by the laws of society. They want to know that you understand the importance of productivity. They want to know what kind of work you’re planning to do once you’re out of prison:

1. Testimonials about your love of God probably won’t help you to convince the parole board. While it is important to let the parole board know you regret the past, they want to hear about the future you plan to live.

2. An experienced parole board hearing will help you to truthfully fill out the parole board application.

An experienced parole attorney ensures that your application is properly prepared and submitted. As soon as your case is eligible for parole review, you’re allowed to consult with an attorney. Why not use all of the possible resources at your disposal to present the best possible case to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles?

What Possible Issues Can Arise in a Texas Parole Hearing?

Your application for parole might not be approved at the first hearing. For that reason, it’s always best practice to have an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side.

Note that some convictions aren’t eligible for parole. Those who have been convicted of first-degree felonies, including sex crimes involving children, felony sexual assault, or murder, won’t have parole hearings. These inmates must serve the full sentence term.

For other serious crimes, the inmate must serve at least half of the sentence before becoming parole-eligible. The time served might (or might not) include good conduct time.

How Do Parole Hearings Work in Texas?

Parole hearings in Texas differ from other states’ procedures. In Texas, the parole hearing is a closed and rather secretive process. In other words, you and your attorney don’t appear before members in an open forum.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice determines your parole eligibility date. If you were charged with a sexual or violent offense, your case is automatically more complex. A lengthy criminal history, prior media coverage, less than ideal institutional adjustment, or other factors may prompt you to the importance of hiring a knowledgeable parole attorney to represent you before the parole board. At that point, you meet with the attorney.

He will interview you:

  • Plan to discuss your family, social, and educational history, including criminal record, previous incarcerations and probations, prior parole periods, and any probation or parole problems or revocations.
  • Provide the details of the offense for which you’re incarcerated, including facts of the case, people involved, co-defendants, and victims.
  • Recap the trial proceedings, including any plea offer discussions before the trial, your adjustment to prison, disciplinary history in prison, unit assignments, job assignments, classifications, and custody levels.
  • Review any parole obstacles, such as a trial official or victim protest. A trial official is either the district attorney of the county in which you were convicted, the convicting county’s sheriff, or the judge of the court in which you were convicted.
  • Plan a parole review strategy. Every case is unique, so the skillful defense attorney will consider the specific factors and circumstances of your case.
  • Your attorney will then request to meet with the parole panel’s lead voter when possible. The parole board isn’t required to grant such a request, but most voters usually allow for an in-person or telephone meeting with the defense attorney. In many instances, it may be possible for your family members to attend the meeting with your defense attorney. The presence of one or more members of your family at the meeting can be a positive factor. He or she may have an opportunity to address the voter during the meeting.

How Should I Prepare for a Parole Hearing?

An experienced parole attorney will meet with you to gather information before the parole hearing. You may be interviewed before the parole hearing. You won’t attend the parole hearing in Texas.

Because the presentation of your case in its most favorable light is the goal of your parole attorney, it’s essential for you to identify a compassionate, experienced, and aggressive defense attorney to work for you.

If you or someone you love is parole-eligible, contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros in Houston to schedule a case evaluation. Mr. Tsioros works with clients seeking parole throughout the state of Texas.

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