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):
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.

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.
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."

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.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grits, are these conditions being imposed on parolees with prior sex offender convictions?

Or maybe the original charge was reduced from a sex offense to something else.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I suppose it's possible, but that wasn't the profile of the cases at the CCA and the Fifth Circuit. Read the opinion for more detail.

Thom said...

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,"
I would think it’s too expensive for the state to continue to defend violating a people’s rights. Think about all the money spent covering up the injustices the state has done to people. After reading Texas Tough, I’m shocked at the money that was purposely spent to defend the practice of cruelty. Cut funding that provides opportunities while increasing spending maintain a level of cruelty to our citizens. Our state sure likes to incarcerate people and follow up with a continued screwing over. How Christian of our hypocrite leaders. Our state logo should read “Texas it’s good to be white and pass as right.”

TDCJ argues "that it is too expensive to provide a due-process..."

Woodsy said...

It is a shame that it even took a judicial decision for the Parole Board to be told what they cannot do (considering it ought be common sense that they lack the statutory authority). This is another example of where the "small-government conservatives" are pushing for Big Brother tactics to monitor as many people as they can.

rodsmith said...

no woodsy what's sad is that this whole decision is ASS BACKWARD.

Sorry Under our constution it's not the inmates job to PROVE they don't deserve it. its' the STATE'S JOB to prove they do!

Yes every one the state wishes to hammer with these rules should have a hearing the burden of proof under our constution is on the STATE not the individual.

Woodsy said...

btw..., this issue was already addressed years ago in Coleman v. Dretke, 395 F.3d 216 (5th Cir. 2004), though I realize it takes Texans a bit longer to catch up to constitutional precedents.

Anonymous said...

For the life of me I don't understand why some of these people who have been so railroaded by the justice system don't go on a tirade and get even with those who have caused such unjustified misery to their lives. After reading the opinion, I wouldn't blame that guy at all if he chose to go on a killing spree. I predict that if these shenanigans are allowed to continue, some who have had their lives destroyed are going to say to themselves "what have I got to lose" and act on their homicidal impulses. I don't mean to sound like some nut, but honestly, who could blame these people? And more importantly, would their acts of desperation cause change?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Woodsy, this is basically the CCA finally getting around to acknowledging Coleman v. Dretke, with a little extra urging required from Judge Sam Sparks.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:22 am .. It shouldn't matter. The individual with prior sex offenses would already be a candidate for sex registry. They wouldn't need an extra hearing. if the Original case was pled down, that doesn't matter either. If the conviction does not fit the requirements of registration, no matter what the original charge was, an individual is not supposed to be put on the registry.

A different look would be someone charged with Murder, but receiving a manslaughter conviction, is not eligible for Death Row.

However, in essence what the state was doing was saying, ok we are happy lowering the charges from sexual exploitation (for whatever reason) to endangerment, then 5 years later saying OH we were only joking.. You cannot do that in even OUR justice system which over the last 10 years has become a joke. it did not allow for due process proceedings.

sunray's wench said...

Not surprised it was Judge Sparks. He doesn't appear to like the BPP any more than I do!

David E said...

It has been the case since man's creation that those in power presume that power has no checks and balances. The Parole Board stands out in this case as a most shining example of Neanderthal thinking. How did a state that used to thrive on liberty of conscience and bold innovation ever reach the point that gross abuse simply should be acceptable without question?

Anonymous said...

Does it surprise anyone that the TDCJ general counsel is a former director of the parole division, who was "Re-assigned" due to conflict,controversy, and questions of competence in the mid 90's?
Or that the general counsel for the Board of Pardons and Paroles is the same person who freed Kenneth Mcduff, and was later fired from the parole division for misconduct?
Either this governor, the next governor, or perhaps Judge Sparks needs to kick this incestuous anthill flat.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

I really think there is a simple answer here. If the defendant committed a sex crime and the prosecutor can prove it, Do So. If you cannot DONT. I see no way that you have the right to convict a person of oh lets say burglary, where the victim says they were sexually assaulted, but you havent any evidence to support the sex charge. So you convict them of burglary and the jury gives the 20 years. When they come up for parole and are released you DONT have the right to run in at that point and scream I want sex offender status on this parolee. Sorry buddy but you either do your job or dont but you dont get to convict this person of a sex crime they were never charged with. If they are subjected to Sex Offender status they will be being punished for a crime they never commited. I can see the prosecutors reasoning though, why worry they have blanket immunity no matter whose life they destroy. They can simply pile restriction on thier paroles and probation till they simply cant keep up with them and they have no worries about being held accountable themselves.

rodsmith said...

you hit it right on the head there homeless cowboy!

Of course that's the why the entire plea bargain/probation sytem works now

they offer a plea bargain with probation KNOWING the whole time you will NEVER sucessfully complete it. At that point they hammer you! and you end up with more time then if you had simply WENT TO TRIAL at the beginning as it is LEGALLY required by the U.S. Constituion.

Anonymous said...

What is the Crap's is that some one get arested for some teenage girl "saying she was sexually assaulted, and they take dna and find none in her and yet they confict the guys of it. Cause the lawyer screws up and gets sanctions agains him he then tell the guys he needs to take a plea bargin cause they would convict him for life and scare him to death so he take a plea bargin and gets 20, he has never been arrested for anything. They even proved him not guilty on some other accusations at another time.
What is wrong with our LAW, he was guilty by law to start off with.
He was not innocent until proven guilty.
His to be X wife's niece, that was baby sitting, was the drunk girl, that when he came home found her and tryed to get her sobber and then she calls the police the next morning and they come and arrest him. What a terrible nightmare and now he is paying dearly for it.
Where is the justice in this!!!

Anonymous said...

there is a young man on the Estes Unit in Venus Texas who has never been convicted of a sex offence. He is still being forced to Special Condition X. He is due to be released from TDCJ on October 24. What can be done to help him.

Anonymous said...

I have a lawsuit pending now due this. See Carter v. owens 1:11-cv-111-LY. The parole board took me off parole for the UUMV I am serving a sentence for and put me on parole for a crime I was acquitted of! They never expected a convict to figure out how to fight them in Federal Court. OOps!