When defendants convicted of certain offenses, including murder, are released from prison, they are placed on parole under the supervision of the CDCR (Penal Code § 3008.09(a)(i)). If defendant then commits a crime while on parole, either the CDCR or the district attorney may file a petition to revoke parole. Penal Code §§ 1203.2(a), 1203.2(b); People v. Castel (2017) 12 Cal. App. 5th 1321, 1325.
Generally speaking, “[T]he district attorney seeks parole revocation as a result of parolees’ criminal conduct,” whereas the parole agency tends to do so as a result of “more minor or technical violations.” People v. Zamudio (2017) 12 Cal. App. 5th 8, 16-17.
The Gist of this Article: When a district attorney files a parole revocation request as a result of a parolee’s criminal conduct, the judge must request and then consider the parole agency’s written report before sentencing the parolee.
Upon learning of a potential parole violation, the parole agency “may impose additional and appropriate conditions of supervision, including rehabilitation and treatment services and appropriate incentives for compliance, and impose immediate sanctions for parole violations, including flash incarceration in a city or county jail.” Penal Code § 3000.08(d). However, if the parole agency concludes “following application of its assessment processes . . . that intermediate sanctions up to and including flash incarceration are not appropriate,” it must file a petition to revoke parole in the trial court. Penal Code § 3008.08(f).
Every revocation petition filed by the parole agency must “include a written report that contains additional information regarding the petition, including the relevant terms and conditions of parole, the circumstances of the alleged underlying violation, the history and background of the parolee, and any recommendations.” Penal Code § 3008.08(f); California Rules of Court, rule 4.541(c).
In addition, the report “must include the reasons for that agency’s determination that intermediate sanctions without court intervention as authorized by Penal Code § 3000.08(f) . . . are inappropriate responses to the alleged violations.” California Rules of Court, rule 4.541(e).
In 1995, Jerry Denton Williams, Jr., was convicted of murder and sentenced 30 years to life in prison. In 2018, he was released on lifetime parole.
The next year, he was charged with petty theft and possession of drug paraphernalia (a methamphetamine pipe), both misdemeanors. The Sonoma County District Attorney filed a petition under Penal Code §§ 1203.2 and 3000.08 to revoke his parole. The trial court judge summarily revoked parole and set a parole violation hearing.
On the date of the revocation hearing, Williams moved to continue his hearing because the trial court had not referred the petition to his parole agency for a written report “to justify the reasons why intermediate sanctions were not employed,” as required under Penal Code § 1203.2(b)(1).
The Sonoma County judge handling the revocation hearing denied this request, concluding § 1203.2(b)(1) did not require the judge to obtain such a written report, and conducted the parole revocation hearing, finding Williams had committed one of the charged offenses (possession of drug paraphernalia) and remanded him back to state prison, the required sanction whenever a court finds that a lifetime parolee has violated parole. Penal Code § 3000.08(h).
Williams filed an appeal in the First Appellate District Court, arguing that the the order remanding him back to state prison was in error because the judge refused to refer the matter to the parole agency for a written report before ruling on the petition.
It is notable that while this appeal was pending, about six months after Williams was remanded to state prison, the Board of Parole Hearings found him suitable for parole and he was released from prison. This made the appeal moot.
Meanwhile, the First Appellate District ruled that lifetime parolees are no exception to the Penal Code § 1203.2(b)(1) requirement that the trial court judge must refer petitions for revocation to the parole agency for a written report. Such a report may serve other important functions beside providing recommendations to a trial court regarding intermediate sanctions, as the report includes additional background information on the parolee.
We present this summary to the reader to exemplify how judges often violate the law and, in this case, a convicted murderer had to point this out, epitomizing how anyone can bring attention to a judge who is a bit too eager to revoke parole.
The citation for the First Appellate District Court ruling discussed above is People v. Jerry Denton Williams, Jr. (1st App. Dist., 2021) 71 Cal. App. 5th 1029, 286 Cal. Rptr. 3d 804.
For more information about parole violations, please click on the following articles: