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Colorado Parole Board Cannot Confine Parolee Beyond Statutory Max

In February 2018, Jimmie Graham’s parole officer alleged he violated three conditions of his parole: changing his residence without permission, failing to report to the parole office, and committing a new felony — escape. The escape case was quickly dismissed, and Graham pleaded not guilty to the two remaining violations.

The Parole Board found him guilty, and, noting that he had been revoked from parole eight times previously, sentenced him to confinement for the remainder of his prison term. They cited § 17-2-103(11)(b), C.R.S., which allows for various tiers of re-confinement for parole violations, and § 17-2-103 (11)(f)(II), which makes tampering ‘with a parolee’s GPS monitoring device punishable as a violation under § 11(b).

Graham filed a habeas petition with his district court (which was denied), and then appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. The Court found that paragraph (b) contained multiple subsections at the time he was on parole. Sections I, II, and VI allowed for re-confinement for the remainder of the parolee’s sentence under various circumstances of violation, including commission of a new crime.

However, §§ III and III.5 only allowed revocation for 30 and 90 days, respectively, if the parolee met certain criteria. Because it was undisputed by the State that Graham met the criteria outlined in III.5, the Court found the Parole Board exceeded its statutory authorization by re-confining him for the rest of his prison term. Citing Thiret v. Kautzy, 792 P.2d 801 (Colo. 1990); the Court reiterated that the DOC and the Parole Board lacked the “discretion to override the legislative determination mandating parole.”

In its opinion, the Court restated language from Stilley v. Tinsley, 385 P.2d 677 (Colo. 1963) by saying, “While a parole violator’s record may be unsavory and his conduct not such as to appeal favorably to the conscience of the court, he is nevertheless entitled to be dealt with in conformity with constitutional and statutory guarantees.”

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Related legal case

Graham v. Ex. Director of Colorado DOC