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Heck Doesn't Apply to Parole Revocation Incarceration Without Attorney or Hearing

The Tenth Circuit court of appeals has held that a prisoner who claims he was denied an attorney or court hearing for 73 days while awaiting extradition for parole revocation need not show that the revocation had been reversed before filing suit.

Steven Roy French, an Oklahoma state prisoner, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging his civil rights were violated when he was held in jail for 73 days without access to an attorney or the courts. French was convicted in Oklahoma, but was serving out his parole in Colorado. On November 13, 2001, he was summoned to his parole officer's office. There she accused him of having flushed" his system of drugs to beat a urinalysis. She arrested him for parole violation.

For the following 73 days, Adams was incarcerated at the Adams County Detention Center in Colorado, awaiting extradition to Oklahoma for parole revocation proceedings. Despite repeated requests, he was neither informed of the specific reason for his incarceration, allowed to meet with an attorney, nor given a hearing. French wrote a local public defender who secured his release. Later he filed suit.

The district court dismissed Fench's suit, reasoning that the suit, if successful, necessarily would imply the invalidity of incarceration." Thus, it would be barred pursuant to Heck v. Humphries, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), unless French first showed that the revocation had been reversed. French appealed.

The Tenth Circuit held that there is an exception to the prior reversal requirement that is stated within Heck. That is if the plaintiff's action, even if successful, would not demonstrate the invalidity of the outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed."

Thus, if the plaintiff seeks damages for using the wrong procedures, not for reaching the wrong decision, the claim may still be raised even though the decision has not yet been reversed. Because successful suit for not providing specific charges, access to an attorney, or a hearing while awaiting extradition for parole revocation proceedings would not necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of the revocation, plaintiff could proceed without first reversing the revocation. Furthermore, it is not clear from the record whether revocation occurred or whether French's current incarceration is the result of some other proceeding. Thus, because nothing in the record indicates that his damages would be inconsistent with proper parole revocation," the district court erred when it dismissed the suit. The dismissal was reversed and the case returned to the district court for further proceedings. See: French v. Adams County Detention Center, 379 F.3d 1158 (10th Cir. 2004).

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