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California: Prisoner’s Parole May Not Be Revoked if Board Fails to Act During 30-Day Discharge Review Period

By Mike Brodheim

The California Court of Appeal has held that, by failing to act during the 30-day discharge review period provided by statute, the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) lost jurisdiction to revoke the parole of a prisoner who had otherwise complied with the statutory conditions for discharge from parole.

Released to serve a 5-year period of parole in November 2005, Nicholas Torres remained on parole continuously for three years, from November 22, 2005, until November 21, 2008. Subsequently, on December 16, 2008, he was returned to custody, charged with failing to participate in group therapy, a special condition of his parole.

By statute, any person released to serve a 5-year period of parole must be discharged from parole early, after serving three years on parole continuously, unless the Board, during the 30 days subsequent to the three years of continuous parole, finds that good cause exists to retain that prisoner on parole. By regulation, a parolee is deemed to be on continuous parole if he or she has not absconded from parole supervision, or had his or her parole revoked, or been returned to custody “for psychiatric attention.”

It was undisputed that Torres had not absconded and had not been returned to custody “for psychiatric attention.” Moreover, the Board did not take the steps necessary to revoke Torres’ parole until February 25, 2009, long after the 30-day discharge review period had expired.

Noting that, pursuant to section 2637 of its own regulations, the Board could have retained jurisdiction over Torres by extending his parole period pending a revocation hearing, the Court of Appeal rejected the Board’s argument that 30 days was not enough time for it both to conduct the discharge review and determine whether Torres had in fact violated parole.

The Court determined that Torres’ parole expired by operation of law when the Board failed to act by December 21, 2008, the end of the 30-day discharge review period in his case. See: In re Torres, 186 Cal.App.4th 909 (2010), 111 Cal. Rptr. 3d 919.

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Related legal case

In re Torres