State officials lost another court case Wednesday over the way Texas imposes sex-offender status on parolees who were not convicted of sex-related crimes.Lindell says officials don't know for sure how many cases will be affected, but parole attorney Bill Habern tells me via email the case will force review of sex-offender conditions for around 6,900 parolees. Said Habern, "I hope folks understand what a real statement this is for the CCA and for those who do not deserve sex offender and sex offender related parole conditions. They ruin your life."
This time it was the state's highest criminal court ruling that parole officials violated the due process rights of parolees labeled as sex offenders without being allowed to attend their parole hearings, present a defense or confront prosecution witnesses.
Several federal courts, reaching similar conclusions in rulings beginning in 2004, eventually required Texas to hold special hearings for affected parolees before sex-offender restrictions could continue.
Texas had sought to limit the number of parolees affected by the U.S. rulings, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, ruling 8-0, rejected those arguments.
In effect, Wednesday's ruling means every parolee — and every inmate about to be paroled — who was not convicted of a sex-related crime must receive a hearing and be allowed to present a defense before sex-offender conditions can be applied to their parole, defense lawyer Scott Pawgan said. "This now applies to everyone, even though (parole officials) desperately tried to limit it," Pawgan said.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Court: Parole board can't impose sex-offender conditions without evidentiary hearing
Texas' Board of Pardons and Paroles may no longer impose "Special Condition X" - i.e., labeling someone a sex offender and requiring sex-offender treatment, registration, etc.. - when they weren't convicted of a sex-crime and the state has held no evidentiary hearing to determine it's warranted, according to a Court of Criminal Appeals opinion issued yesterday. Chuck Lindell at the Austin Statesman was Johnny-on-the-spot to break the news ("Court: All parolees must get sex-offender hearings," May 5):
TDCJ argued "that it is too expensive to provide a due-process evidentiary hearing before imposing sex-offender conditions on those who have never been convicted of a sex offense," but "after balancing the additional costs to TDCJ against the parolee's liberty interest and the likelihood of erroneous decision-making without appropriate due-process protections, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the present procedures - the ones used in Meza and in the present case - were unconstitutional." So the parole board will either have to hold thousands of individualized hearings at a time they're already facing budget cuts or else stop imposing "Special Condition X" on people not convicted of sex crimes.