Parole is a period of court supervision that begins with a prison sentence. Probation is a period of court supervision that does not include any incarceration. County supervision is handled by the Berks County Adult Probation and Parole Office. State supervision is usually handled by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. While the sentences and hearings for probation violations and parole violations are sometimes different, the supervision requirements for probation and parole are generally the same.
Probation/parole violation (PV) hearings are commonly referred to as Gagnon II hearings (or Gag II’s). Probationers or parolees are required to abide by the conditions of supervision that are imposed by the judge at the time of sentencing. When a probation or parole officer believes that the conditions have been violated, a PV hearing will be held. Common violations can include failure to complete treatment, failure to report to the assigned probation officer or being charged with a new crime.
The Gagnon II process begins when the probation or parole officer requests that a bench warrant be issued on the basis that the probationer or parolee has violated a condition of supervision. A bench warrant instructs law enforcement to take that person into custody to be brought before the court. Once a person is arrested on a bench warrant, a Gagnon I hearing will be held. This hearing is to determine whether there is probable cause that a probation/parole violation has occurred. This hearing is conducted by a supervisor in the Berks County Adult Probation and Parole Office (except State parole cases). Further, the probation or parole officers will decide whether to proceed with a Gagnon II hearing. If probable cause for the violation is found, then the probation or parole officer will ask the court to schedule a Gagnon II hearing. A defendant has the right to be represented by counsel at both the Gagnon I and Gagnon II hearings.
In Berks County, county parole Gagnon II hearings are usually held in arraignment court in front of an arraignment master. The arraignment master will make a recommendation to the Berks County Common Pleas judge who originally imposed the sentence. If the defendant does not agree with the recommendation of the arraignment master, then the Gagnon II hearing will be rescheduled and heard by the assigned judge. If the defendant does not admit to the violation, then a full hearing will be scheduled. At this hearing the Commonwealth will need to prove that the violation occurred by a preponderance of the evidence. A parole violation sentence can never extend beyond the original maximum sentence and credit is given for time spent on supervision (except that credit can be taken away for time that the defendant was not complying with supervision).
County probation Gagnon II hearings are held in front of the judge that imposed the original sentence. If the defendant admits to the violation then the probation officer recommends a sentence to the judge. This recommendation could include jail time and/or an extended period of supervision. The defendant or his attorney will also be able to make sentencing arguments. A probation violation sentence cannot be longer than the original term of probation imposed; however, a defendant does not receive credit for time that he has spent on probation and the judge can fashion any sentence as long as it is not longer than the original term of probation. For example: a defendant originally receives a sentence of 2 years of probation and violates his probation 1 year later, the judge can resentence the defendant to another 2 years of probation, or 2 years of incarceration or 30 days of incarceration, or any other variation as long as the sentence is no longer than 2 years. If the defendant does not admit to the violation, then a full hearing will be scheduled. At this hearing the Commonwealth will need to prove that the violation occurred by a preponderance of the evidence.
A state parole violation begins with a Gagnon I hearing which is held in the Berks County Prison. An examiner from the Board of Probation and Parole is present to hearing testimony regarding the violation and determine whether probable cause exists to continue to detain the parolee. A parolee can also decide to waive his preliminary hearing. If the examiner finds that there is probable cause of a violation or the parolee waives his preliminary hearing, then the examiner can proceed with sentencing. The parolee also has the right to elect to have his violation hearing held in front of a panel at a later date.
State probation violation hearings are handled the same way as county probation violation hearings, but jail sentences for violations are usually served in state prison.
A probation or parole violation can result in a lengthy prison sentence and extended supervision. It is very important that you have representation at your Gagnon II hearing. Contact our criminal defense lawyers in Reading, PA at 610-372-5128 or submit your case using the “Ask an attorney” link.