What to Expect After a Parole Suitability Hearing

All decisions by a hearing panel are proposed decisions. Proposed decisions will become final within 120 days from the date of the parole hearing. During the 120 days following a parole hearing, the audio recording of the hearing will be transcribed and the decision will be subject to review by the Board’s legal office.

If a parole hearing resulted in a tie vote, the full Board will review the case and determine the outcome of the hearing at one of its monthly executive Board meetings. The full Board will review only the transcript of the hearing and the records considered by the hearing panel when determining the outcome of a tie vote. The panel member who participated in the hearing that resulted in the tie vote will not participate in the Board’s consideration of the case. Because the Board must limit its review to the transcript and records considered by the hearing panel, no public comment about the case will be taken at the Executive Board meeting. Parole decisions rendered by the full Board after a tie vote will be proposed decisions and will be subject to review by the Board’s legal office for up to 120 days from the date the full Board determined the outcome of the parole hearing decision at a monthly Executive Board meeting.

In addition, any proposed decision may be referred to the full Board for review and a vote for any reason by a commissioner or deputy commissioner who was on the hearing panel. The full Board has up to 60 days from the date of the hearing to review the case. If a hearing panel member refers a case for en banc review, the full Board will review the decision and determine whether it should be affirmed or vacated. If the Board votes to vacate the hearing panel’s decision, a new hearing will be ordered and scheduled in about four to six months. If the full Board affirms the hearing panel’s decision, the decision will become final within 120 days from the date of the parole hearing.

Review of Parole Decisions by the Board’s Legal Division

The Board’s legal division may review any parole hearing decision, but it is required to review all decisions resulting in a grant of parole. Decisions are reviewed to determine if the panel made an error of law, if the panel’s decision was based on an error of fact, or if there is new information that should be presented to the Board, any of which when corrected or considered by the Board has a substantial likelihood of resulting in a substantially different decision upon a rehearing.

If the chief counsel finds there was an error of law, error of fact, or there is new information that should be presented to the Board, he or she will refer the case for review and a vote by the full Board at one of the Board’s monthly executive Board meetings. This is referred to as an “en banc” referral, meaning it is being referred to the full Board for review. The Board will review the case and vote to affirm the decision of the hearing panel, vacate the decision of the hearing panel and order a new hearing, or modify the decision. The Board will accept comments from the public at the Executive Board meeting and will review comments submitted in writing before the Executive Board meeting before rendering a decision on the case.

If the chief counsel or a hearing panel member does not refer the decision to the full Board for review, the decision will become final within 120 days after the date of the parole hearing.

The Governor’s Review of a Parole Decision

Parole decisions that become final are subject to review by the Governor. The Governor has 30 days to review a decision. The Governor may take no action and allow the decision to stand, reverse the decision (if the inmate was convicted of murder), or refer the decision to the full Board for review “en banc” and a vote at one of its monthly Executive Board meetings.

If the Governor takes no action on a parole grant, the inmate will be scheduled for release. In some cases, however, the inmate may not be immediately released, such as when the inmate was convicted and sentenced for a crime he or she committed while in prison. Generally, sentences imposed for in-prison offenses must be served after the inmate has received a grant of parole by the Board.

If the Governor reverses a grant of parole, the inmate will be scheduled for a new parole hearing within 18 months from the date of the inmate’s last parole hearing.

If the Governor refers a decision to the full Board for en banc review and a vote, the Board may affirm the hearing panel’s decision, modify the decision, or order a rescission hearing to determine whether the inmate’s grant of parole should be rescinded. If the Board votes to affirm the hearing panel’s decision or to modify the hearing panel’s decision, the inmate will be processed for release by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Some inmates may not be immediately released, such as when the inmate was convicted and sentenced for a crime he or she committed while in prison. Generally, sentences imposed for in-prison offenses must be served after the inmate has received a grant of parole by the Board. Others may need to serve additional time if they were granted parole at their first parole hearing and have not yet reached their minimum eligible parole date.

Rescission Hearings

If the full Board votes to refer a grant of parole for a rescission hearing, a rescission hearing will be scheduled in about four to six months after the Executive Board meeting where the rescission hearing was ordered. The purpose of a rescission hearing is to evaluate new information or a fundamental error committed by the granting panel that may indicate that a grant of parole was improper. A rescission hearing is typically conducted by a panel of three, comprised of two commissioners and a deputy commissioner

The inmate is provided an attorney at this hearing and if the rescission hearing is based on new information, the inmate has the ability to call witnesses to provide testimonial evidence. A representative from the district attorney’s office that prosecuted the inmate may attend. Additionally, victims and their family will be notified of the hearing and may attend.

If the hearing panel determines that there is no good cause to rescind or postpone the grant then the inmate will be processed for release by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Alternatively, if the hearing panel does find good cause to rescind the grant, the inmate will not be released and a new parole hearing will be scheduled within a few months.