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​Preliminary Hearings

What is a Preliminary Hearing?
A first level hearing that determines whether or not there is probable cause that the parolee violated the conditions of his/her 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 14 days of the individual’s detention on the Parole Board’s warrant.

Can a parolee waive this hearing?
A parolee may waive both the right to a preliminary hearing and the right to be heard by a panel at a violation hearing. If the parolee waives the right to a preliminary hearing but does not want to waive the right to be heard by a panel, the examiner shall terminate the proceedings, and the parolee shall be scheduled to be heard by a panel at a violation hearing.

Who makes the decision in this type of hearing?
A hearing examiner. 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.

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.
     o If counsel is not present but the parolee desires counsel, this fact shall be documented by the Hearing Examiner and acknowledged by the parolee.
• 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 and schedule violation hearing 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 did not find probable cause to conclude the parolee violated the conditions of parole or the circumstances did not warrant detaining the parolee.

How long does it take to reach a decision?
If the hearing is held, the Hearing Examiner provides a written decision on whether probable cause is established at the conclusion of the hearing. However, the decision on whether to continue on parole or proceed to a second level hearing is not made until the Hearing Examiner completes the hearing report. The hearing report is required to be completed within 10 business days after completion of the hearing per current Parole Board procedure.

How is the decision given to the inmate?
A Board Action is typically not issued following a preliminary hearing. If the Hearing Examiner finds that none of the alleged violations were supported by probable cause, the parolee shall be released as soon as possible. If the Hearing Examiner determines that probable cause exists, a violation hearing will be scheduled to determine if the parolee is guilty of the violations.

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.