Parole by Mistake: No Credit Toward Sentence

By | Parole | No Comments

If a person convicted of aggravated rape is paroled by mistake, is that person entitled to street-time credit for the period between his release and the revocation of his release?

The 5th Circuit said NO in Rhodes v. Thaler.

Rhodes v. Thaler, 713 F.3d 264 (5th Cir. 2013): Mandell Rhodes, Jr. was convicted of aggravated rape in 1980. He was paroled in 2004, but returned to prison in 2006 after violating a condition of his release. Rhodes claimed that he was denied street-time credit for the two years that he was on parole which “could have been used to accelerate his automatic release to mandatory supervision.”

According to Rhodes, Texas law required that when an inmate is released in error through no fault of his own, he is entitled to be credited with all earned street-time credit upon his return to prison. The denial of such credit, he argued, was a violation of due process.

Rhodes sought habeas relief in federal district court. The district court denied his petition. Through a Certificate of Appealability, the 5th Circuit was granted jurisdiction to decide the appeal and consider Rhodes’s argument that his street time should have been restored because he was erroneously released to parole. According to the 5th Circuit, Rhodes’s petition could only be granted if one of his constitutional rights had been violated.

In order to prevail under due process, Rhodes must have had a “liberty interest” in his claimed street-time credit. If he did not have a liberty interest in that street-time credit, he was due no more process than he received. In determining whether Rhodes had a liberty interest in the street-time credit he demanded, the 5th Circuit looked to Texas’ law of releasees that was in effect when his release was revoked.

At the time Rhodes’s parole was revoked, Texas’ “street-time credit statute,” Tex. Gov’t Code §508.283, controlled. According to §508.283, “if the parole, mandatory supervision, or conditional pardon of a person described by §508.149(a) is revoked, the person may be required to serve the remaining portion of the sentence on which the person was released. The remaining portion is computed without credit for the time from the date of the person’s release to the date of revocation.” According to the Court of Criminal Appeals, §508.149(a) includes persons- like Rhodes- who have been convicted of aggravated rape.

Therefore, because Rhodes was not entitled to street-time credit for that period, he had no protected liberty interest that was subject to due-process protection. Rhodes was only entitled to federal habeas relief if he was deprived of street time credit without due process. Because Rhodes had no protected liberty interest in the street-time credit that he claimed to have accrued, his due-process right was not violated. Therefore, the district court’s denial of Rhodes’s habeas petition was affirmed.

Parole in Texas

TDCJ’s Flagrant Violations of Constitutional Law in Parole Process

By | Parole | No Comments

Parole in TexasA releasee (parolee) is entitled to a prompt preliminary hearing once the revocation process has been initiated by the execution of a revocation warrant. Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972). Due process, according to the Supreme Court of the United States in Morrissey v. Brewer, requires that a preliminary hearing be held “as promptly as convenient” after a parolee has been arrested to “determine whether there is probable cause or reasonable ground to believe that the arrested parolee has committed acts that would constitute a violation of parole conditions.”

In Ex Parte Bohannan, the applicant (parolee) filed an application for writ of mandamus arguing that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) violated his constitutional rights by failing to hold a preliminary hearing when the State sought to revoke his parole.

While on parole for aggravated rape, applicant was arrested for monitoring violations. However, TDCJ did not hold the required preliminary hearing because it has a standing policy that it does not conduct preliminary hearings while there is a criminal case pending. Once applicant filed for habeas corpus, however, the TDCJ conducted the preliminary hearing. Even though he ultimately received the hearing that he sought, applicant nonetheless requested that the CCA intervene, arguing that his situation is not unique in Texas and that this problem is “capable of repetition, yet evading review” (an exception to the mootness doctrine).

TDCJ, in its brief to the CCA, stated its belief that it need not conduct such a hearing while a criminal case is pending because the court system conducts similar probable cause hearings and a preliminary hearing would only be redundant. In essence, TDCJ was saying they there is no need for them to follow the law.

Ultimately, the CCA held that the case was non-justiciable (moot), so it did not consider the substance of applicant’s claim. However, Judge Keasler, joined by Judges Price, Hervey and Cochran, penned a scathing concurrance wherein it warns the TDCJ that if it continues its policy of not granting preliminary hearings in parole revocation cases, “it does so at its own peril.”

The Supreme Court has not made any exceptions to [the preliminary hearing requirement]. Thus, contrary to the assertion of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), as amicus curiae, such a hearing is not duplicative of any other prior probable cause determination. The failure to comply with Morrissey violates a releasee’s constitutional rights, and our experience with this issue establishes that the Board, pursuant to the policies established by the TDCJ, Parole Division, has violated, and continues to flagrantly violate, clearly established constitutional law. Indeed, TDCJ has admitted as much: “there is no reasonable expectation that the TDCJ will discontinue its policy of not providing a preliminary hearing when a releasee is being held on pending criminal charges . . . .” This is patently unacceptable. And if it “reasonably expects” to continue this policy, it does so at its peril.

The answer for future parolees: MANDAMUS.

Because a claim challenging the Board’s failure to provide a preliminary revocation hearing is non-justiciable, Article 11.07 does not provide an adequate remedy at law for a release to compel the Board to comply with its ministerial duty. But mandamus clearly does. And in response to any future alleged violations on mandamus, as time is of the essence, it may be necessary and appropriate for TDCJ and the Board, through their legal representatives, to appear before us in person to answer any allegation that Morrissey’s mandate is being disobeyed.

Sex Offender Parole Conditions Lifted at Habeas Proceeding

By | Parole, Sex Crimes | No Comments

Court Holds that Sex Offender Conditions Cannot be Added as a Condition of Parole for Cases That Do Not Involve a Sex Offense

Ex Parte Evans – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals considered a case wherein sex-offender conditions were placed on a parolee for an offense other than a sex offense.

In October of 2001, Appellant pled guilty to two counts of reckless injury to a child (not a sexual offense). He was sentenced to ten years in prison on each count. On October 25, 2006, Appellant was released to parole in Lubbock, Texas. He then asked for his parole to be transferred to El Paso, Texas, where his children lived. Once he arrived in El Paso, his new parole officer gave him a “Notice and Opportunity to Respond Pre-Imposition of Sex Offender Special Conditions.” He submitted a written response stating that he was unable to produce any documentation to show that the offense he had been convicted of was unrelated to anything sexual in nature other than the fact that the victim’s doctor had testified that the injuries were not sexual in nature.

Despite his dispute, his parole officer recommended that “Special Condition X” (the sex-offender program) be added as a condition of his parole.  From all accounts, immediately after the condition was imposed, Appellant went “downhill.”  He was not allowed to visit his children anymore.  Further, in October of 2008, Appellant’s parole officer and a handful of other officers searched the Appellant’s home. Inside, they found a cell phone on Appellant’s bed that had a picture of a nude woman on it. Several other pictures of nude women were found in his cell phone online photo album. Also, the officers found two pornographic DVD’s – all of which were unlawful for Appellant to possess while a registered sex offender.

Appellant’s parole was then revoked upon a motion by the State. At the hearing, Appellant argued that the conditions had been unconstitutionally imposed without due process and that the facts of his conviction did not justify such sex-offender conditions. His argument fell on deaf ears and he was returned to prison.

On a writ of habeas corpus, the trial judge found that Appellant had not been convicted of a sex offense, that there was no evidence of sexual abuse of his victims, and that he was not afforded due process before the imposition of the sex offender conditions. The trial judge relied on an opinion out of the 5th Circuit, Meza v. Livingston, 623 F.Supp.2d 782 (W.D. Tex. 2009). That case had almost the exact same facts as Appellants case and the court in the Meza case found that due process had not been afforded in imposing sex-offender conditions as a condition of parole. Here, the CCA acknowledged the opinion but stated that the Meza opinion failed to clarify “exactly how much process is constitutionally due before sex-offender conditions may be imposed upon a parolee who has not been convicted of a sex offense.”

The CCA then cited the Fifth Circuit’s analysis of this issue in the 2004 case, Coleman v. Dretke, 395 F.3d 216 (5th Cir. 2004) which ultimately held that “a parolee who has not been convicted of a sex offense must be afforded the following procedures before sex-offender conditions may be imposed on him:

(1) written notice that sex offender conditions may be imposed as a condition of mandatory supervision;

(2) disclosure of the evidence being presented against [the person] to enable him to marshal the facts asserted against him and prepare a defense;

(3) a hearing in which [the person] is permitted to be heard in person, present documentary evidence, and call witnesses;

(4) the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, unless good cause is shown;

(5) an impartial decision maker;

(6) a written statement by the fact finder as to the evidence relied on and the reasons it attached sex offender conditions to his mandatory supervision.”

The Court held that because these procedures were not offered to Appellant, he was entitled to the relief he sought: immediate release on mandatory supervision without sex-offender conditions, and, if TDCJ sought to re-impose such conditions he was entitled to the protection of the Meza due-process procedures. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice did chime in with four arguments advocating for the actions of the parole officer but the court shot them all down (see the original opinion for more detail).

What’s the take-away? It’s pretty simple my opinion: Due process must be afforded to individuals on parole when the State attempts to add sex-offender conditions on a parolee who has not been convicted of a sexually related offense.

Just for good measure, here are some helpful links pertaining to Sex Offenders and Sex Related Crimes:

Council on Sex Offender Treatment Home Page

Sex Offender Laws, Legislation-Rules and Sex Offender Legislation-Laws