Parole, early termination, and Treaty Offenses

Frequently Asked Questions

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Parole Issues

What is the difference between supervised release and parole?
Supervised release and parole are similar in many ways. Supervised release and parole are both forms of post-incarceration supervision by the United States Probation Office. The rules and regulations governing supervised releasees and parolees are similar. Violations of either supervised release or parole can result in additional time in custody. Both supervised releasees and parolees are entitled to an attorney when charged with violating the terms of their release. There are, however, important differences between parole and supervised release.

Persons sentenced in federal court for conduct occurring before November 1, 1987 were sentenced under so-called “old law” or “pre-Guidelines” law and are subject to parole. Parole involves release from incarceration before the end of a sentence. Parole is a form of custody served in the community under the supervision of the Probation Office and under the jurisdiction of the United States Parole Commission. Parolees remain in the custody of the Attorney General while on parole. Violations of parole are handled by the Parole Commission. Parolees are not entitled to a hearing before a federal judge. 

Supervised release is an additional term of supervision that must be completed after a person completes his or her term of federal custody. It applies to persons sentenced for offenses committed after November 1, 1987. Such persons are subject to the United States Sentencing Guidelines (also known as “new law” or “Guidelines” law) and are not entitled to release parole before the end of a sentence. Persons on supervised release are supervised by the Probation Office, and remain under the jurisdiction of the United States District Court. Violations of supervised release are handled by the District Court, and supervised releasees are entitled to a hearing before the District Court. 

I was sentenced under “old law” and am now on parole. The Parole Commission has issued a warrant against me. What will happen now?
A parolee against whom a warrant or summons has been issued will either be taken into custody or be summoned to appear at a hearing. In the Northern District of California, parolees are usually held at FDC-Dublin. Unless a parolee has been convicted of a new offense, a Probation Officer will personally advise him/her of their legal rights, including the right to an attorney and the right to present witnesses. The Probation Officer will conduct a preliminary interview, which may be postponed to allow you to obtain a lawyer for the preliminary interview. The parolee has the right to an attorney at the preliminary interview, and if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for him or her. 

At the preliminary interview, the Probation Officer will discuss the charges which have been placed against you and will then submit a report to the Commission. In this report, the Probation Officer will recommend whether there is “probable cause” to believe that a violation has occurred and whether you should be held in custody pending a revocation hearing or be reinstated to supervision. The Probation Officer will advise you of the recommendation and the basis for it. 

After the Probation Officer’s report is received, the Regional Commissioner will either order you reinstated to supervision or order you held for a revocation hearing by a Hearing Examiner. You also have the right to an attorney at a revocation hearing. Again, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. 

If you have been convicted of a new state or federal offense, you are not entitled to a preliminary interview because the conviction is sufficient evidence that you violated the conditions of release. In such case, you may be transported without delay to a federal institution, usually at the FRC-Oklahoma, for a revocation hearing. 

How do I get an attorney for a preliminary interview or a revocation hearing in a parole violation case?
You may contact the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Oakland and ask to speak to the parole attorney. You may also ask the Probation Office or the FDC-Dublin case manager to contact the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Oakland to request counsel. If you qualify financially, counsel will be appointed for you.

Early Termination of Supervised Release

When am I eligible for early termination?
To be eligible for early termination, you must obey all the terms and conditions of your probation from the moment it begins without any violations or issues. Typically, to have your request for early termination of your supervised release approved, you must be doing well on probation and not be causing any problems or concerns for your probation officer. If you were convicted of a felony, federal law requires that you complete at least one year of your term before you request early termination. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or infraction, the judge may consider a request for early termination of probation at any time.

What does a judge consider for early termination?
The court will consider the severity of your conviction and your prior criminal history when ruling on a motion for termination of supervised release. In addition, the court will consider the planning and sophistication of your conviction, and whether you owe any outstanding restitution. Your conduct while on supervised release and any recommendation and/or objection by your supervising officer. Ordinarily, the court will request a report from your supervising officer outlining your conduct and request a recommendation to your petition. The court will also want to know the reason why you’re seeking to terminate federal supervised release early. Claims of “I just don’t want to be supervised anymore,” will not suffice. You must have a legitimate reason for seeking this post-conviction remedy. Common reasons include immigration, child custody, military, employment, and any other factors in regard to personal or professional hardship. Finally, the court will consider whether the negative impact of being supervised outweigh the public’s need for your continued monitoring.

What can I do help myself get early termination?
It will help your case if your probation officer is on board with it and thinks you are a good candidate for early termination. Additionally, if you owe any fines or restitution, it is helpful for you to make sure your payments are current and, if you can, pay off all of what you owe. Additionally, you can write a letter to the court. In your letter make a list of all the changes you've made in your life since you were arrested for the offense. If you've ceased contact with the other individuals involved in the crime, started a new job, or made other positive changes in your life, these things can weigh in favor of you getting off federal probation early. Gather documentation of any education, training, or rehabilitation programs you've completed since the offense. Any additional education or official programs can decrease the likelihood that you would go back to your old way of life and commit another crime once released from probation early. The judge will look at whether the public is protected from any further crimes you may commit. The more you can show that you've moved far away from that previous life, the greater your chances the judge will grant your request.

Treaty Transfer Inmates

My daughter (sister, mother) is an American who was convicted and sentenced in Mexico and has now been brought back to the United States. What is going to happen?
Female federal treaty transfer defendants are often held in the Northern District of California. Therefore, this discussion will assume the inmate is female.
Pursuant to 18 USC § 4106A(b)(1)(A), the United States Parole Commission determines a release date and a period of supervised release for a Treaty Transfer inmate, by applying the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to the sentence for the offense for which the inmate was convicted. This process will begin upon her initial meeting with a lawyer from the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Texas. 

Following this meeting (and when the U.S. Marshals can schedule the transfer), she will probably be transferred from the Hudspeth County Jail in Texas to a federal women’s prison in Dublin, California. (If she is very ill or very pregnant, she may stay in Texas. Most women, however, are transferred to California.) Once she is transferred, a lawyer from the Federal Public Defender’s Office in San Francisco will go to the prison to meet with her to explain the process, to complete some paperwork with her and to respond to any questions she may have. If you would like to speak with this lawyer, you may do so by calling our office and requesting to speak with the lawyer who handles the “treaty transfer cases.” 

The completed paperwork will then be given to a United States Probation officer who has been assigned to her case. This probation officer will also have a copy of the translated Mexican court documents. After conducting some investigation into the defendant's background and her plans upon her release, the probation officer will interview her. The probation officer will ultimately recommend a sentence to the United States Parole Commission. The lawyer who represents your family member will also submit his or her ideas regarding what the sentence should be to the Parole Commission. The Parole Commission will then determine your family member’s release date. 

How long will this process take? 
The speed of the sentencing process in the United States depends on the offense of conviction in Mexico, and the amount of custody already served abroad. The process of determining a release date will take at least three months and can take longer if, for instance, the defendant was convicted of transporting a large quantity of drugs, was convicted of murder or has many prior convictions. Keep in mind that her release date may be immediate or it may be months/years in the future. The release date will depend, in part, upon the type of offense she committed and on her background. In no event will the United States sentence be longer than the Mexican sentence.

When will she be released?
Once the Parole Commission determines a release date, the Commission will fax this determination to the prison where the defendant is housed. The prison will then subtract her good time and her work credits from this release date. You can check on your family member’s release date at the Bureau of Prisons website. Please keep in mind that until the Parole Commission has determined a release date and the prison has subtracted all good time and work credits, the website will list the release date based on the Mexican sentence the defendant received and not the date which the Parole Commission and prison might give her.

Petty Offenses

Have you received a citiation related to an offense in a National Park or the Presidio?

Felony Offenses

Have you been charged with a federal felony?

parole, early termination of supervised release, and treaty transfer

Do you have questions about federal parole, early termination of supervised release, or dealing with a treaty transfer?