The Importance of Having an Attorney
Is it a mistake to not have an attorney with me if I have an upcoming parole hearing? Hi, I’m Oklahoma City Attorney Aaron Easton, and the short answer to that question is, well, it might be. In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is the body that handles the parole process.
An important point to start with is that they differentiate inmates in two categories, whether the underlying crime is considered violent under Title 57 of the Oklahoma statutes or non-violent. As you’ll see, the process differentiates quite a bit between those two things.
Now, one thing that is similar is to begin with, no matter if you are convicted of a violent crime or a non-violent crime, the Pardon and Parole Board will first have a parole investigator conduct an investigation and submit an investigative report to the Pardon and Parole Board prior to a hearing, it’s called the pre-hearing process.
The Parole Investigation Report
Now that parole investigation report will be pretty extensive. For the inmate that’s coming up for that parole hearing, it’s going to consider, first of all, their entire criminal history, including, obviously, the underlying crime from which a parole hearing is going to be for. It’s also going to take into account any victim impact statements that may have been given during the sentencing phase of the conviction.
It’s going to consider the incarceration record of the inmate coming up for parole, and it’s really going to factor in the prospects that that potential parolee has for housing and employment in the future. Really it’s looking at the overall readiness of the prospective parolee at re-entering society.
The Parole Hearing Process
The second part of the two-part parole process is the actual hearing, which is the part that most people think about. To begin with, the Pardon and Parole Board are going to send out notices to all of the interested parties in the hearing, and that’s going to include, obviously, the inmate, the prospective parolee who’s coming up for the hearing, but it’s also going to include the district attorney who prosecuted the case, the district attorney’s office at least, the law enforcement agency that may have investigated it, any victims that were involved in it, and importantly, it’s also going to notify your attorney, if you have an attorney of record that’s registered an interest in your hearing.
The actual hearing for many inmates can be the make-or-break phase, where an attorney can come in handy for you, is during that hearing, you can have either yourself or an advocate of yours have two minutes to provide oral advocacy to the Pardon and Parole Board. That two minutes, as you might expect, can go by really quickly, and it’s really, really important for your chances to receive a recommendation for parole to know what type of things to say during that short two-minute window.
Now, it’s really important during that portion of the hearing to focus, again, going back to what I said earlier, readiness for release. That’s the big thing. What kind of support system’s in place? What prospects do you have at being successful and not re-offending and staying out of the prison system? Really, the Pardon and Parole Board does a balancing of threat versus society versus the readiness for release. If they feel like a prospective parolee is a threat to society, they’re not going to recommend parole, probably goes without saying.
Should You Hire an Attorney?
So there are four things that can happen during this hearing. The Pardon and Parole Board can recommend release for violent offenders, and that recommendation has to be approved by the governor. If you’re in on a nonviolent crime and that’s what you’re up for parole on, they can simply grant that parole by a majority vote of the five-member Pardon and Parole Board. They can also pass the hearing onto a future docket, or they can obviously deny the parole. If you’re a nonviolent offender under Title 57, you can come back for parole in a year. And if you’re a violent offender, you can’t come back in front of that parole board for another three years.
So wrapping back to that first question, is it a mistake to not have an attorney with you at that hearing? Again, it could be. If you’re a strong candidate for parole, it’s important to really get across that readiness for release at that parole hearing, and that’s something that a trained legal expert can be successful in doing. If you have questions about the pardon and parole process, about the hearing, whether or not it would be a good idea for you to have an attorney, I would highly recommend you speak to an attorney to get personal and confidential advice for your specific case.
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To talk to somebody with my firm, give us a call at (918) 932-2833, or look us up online at postconviction.lawyer.