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California Prisoner Entitled to Parole Gate Money Even if Release is to a Hold for Sexually Violent Predator Evaluation

California Prisoner Entitled to Parole "Gate Money" Even if Release is to a Hold for Sexually Violent Predator Evaluation

By John E. Dannenberg

The California Court of Appeal held that when a state prisoner is released upon completion of his sentence, but is detained in county jail on a hold for a sexually violent predator (SVP) evaluation, the $200 prison "gate money" he is statutorily entitled to upon "release" from prison must be paid him.

William Sabatasso finished his 26-year burglary term in state prison and was paroled on March 27, 2007. At that time, he was not actually "freed," but was detained for 45 days in the Orange County, CA jail on a parole board hold pending evaluation and possible commitment as an SVP. He applied for his $200 gate money, pursuant to CA Penal Code § 2713.1, but was denied.

The prison system denied his administrative appeal based upon its related administrative regulation, 15 CCR § 3075.2(d). However, § 3075.2(d) is more restrictive than § 2713.1, in that it only permits such payment when a prisoner is released to a parole agent or is discharged from all custody. Sabatasso argued in a pro per petition for writ of mandate that the regulation was not authorized under the provisions of the enabling statute.

The court agreed. First, it rejected the state's argument that Sabatasso had not exhausted administrative remedies through the third level of appeal. The court found that any appeal would be futile since it would be answered based not upon the statutory provisions of § 2713.1, but only on the illegal regulation that the state had created.

Second, the court found the language of § 2713.1 unambiguous. It held that under the facts of Sabatasso's case, he could be restricted from his gate money only if he were being released to the custody of another state or to the federal government.

Accordingly, the court held that in light of the controlling statute § 2713.1, prison regulation § 3075.2(d) was invalid and suggested that prison officials rewrite it. Meanwhile, the court ordered the superior court below to grant Sabatasso's original motion for his $200. See: Sabatasso v. Superior Court of Orange County, 167 Cal.App.4th 791 (2008).

The ruling was slightly but not substantively modified by the appellate court on October 22, 2008. See: Sabatasso v. Superior Court, 2008 Cal. App. LEXIS 1667 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. Oct. 22, 2008).

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Related legal case

Sabatasso v. Superior Court of Orange County