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Detention Hearings

What is a Detention Hearing?
A first level hearing that determines whether or not there is probable cause to believe that the parolee has been charged with a new criminal offense that would constitute a violation of parole.

Why is this hearing held?
This hearing is required to be held pursuant to the United States Constitution and the Board’s regulations, which provide that a hearing must be held before a parolee can be detained for a violation of parole.

When are these hearings held?
They are held within 30 days of the individual’s detention on the Parole Board’s warrant. However, a detention hearing is not required to be held by the Board if a district justice conducts a criminal preliminary hearing or the parolee waives a criminal preliminary hearing and the new charges are held for court. Also, if the parolee has already been convicted of the new criminal offense, a hearing is not required to be held.

Who makes the decision in this type of hearing?
A hearing examiner conducts this hearing. A Hearing Examiner is a Parole Board decision maker empowered to sit on parole revocation panels, conduct parole hearings in lieu of panels and conduct parole interviews on behalf of the Parole Board. The final decision requires a second vote from a Parole Board member.

What is the burden of proof?
Probable cause

Does the individual have legal rights at this hearing?
At each type of hearing, individuals are given their rights verbally and in writing. Individuals have the right to:
• Disclosure of evidence in support of the violations charged against them.
• Speak, have voluntary witnesses appear on their behalf and present affidavits and other evidence.
• Cross-examine adverse witnesses.
• Be represented by counsel. If an individual cannot afford counsel, they may request counsel from the public defender of the county in which they are incarcerated. There is no penalty for requesting counsel.
• Request a continuance of the hearing for a good cause.

What happens after the hearing is held?
One of the following decisions will be reached:
(1) probable cause established – continue on parole
(2) probable cause established – detain pending disposition of criminal charges or
(3) probable cause not established – continue on parole.
*Charges can be re-filed if dismissed at this level.

Continuing on parole after first level hearings means the decision maker either did not find sufficient evidence to meet the burden of proof or the circumstances of the new offense did not warrant detention pending disposition of the charges.

How long does it take to reach a decision?
Unfortunately, an exact date or time when a Board Action will be finalized and given to the inmate is difficult to calculate because of multiple factors. Recommitment Board Actions (following parole violation hearings) generally take several weeks from the hearing or waiver date; however, depending upon the type of case, the final decision may take up to 12 weeks to process.

How is the decision given to the inmate?
The Parole Board will send notice of its determination to the inmate directly and to the attorney who represented the inmate at the hearing. All decisions are mailed to the inmate or attorney through the U.S. mail system. Because the mail must go through the Department of Corrections’ mail screening process, this will add extra time to the inmate’s receipt of the decision. According to policy, the inmate must receive a copy of the final Board Action first before it can be released to the general public, even if those requesting a copy are family or friends.

Can the decision be appealed?
These decisions are not appealable as the Parole Board regulation authorizing requests for administrative relief only applies to parole revocation decisions and recalculations based on those actions.1

   137 Pa. Code § 71.3.