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What is the Difference Between County Parole and State Parole in Pennsylvania?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jul 08, 2017 | 0 Comments

When a person is on parole and faces a violation hearing, a critical question is whether the person is on county parole or Pennsylvania State parole.  Although county parole violations are handled sometimes slightly differently and sometimes very differently among the 67 Pennsylvania Counties, be it Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh, or Northampton County, how Pennsylvania State parole violations are handled will follow a more uniform procedure.  Understanding the difference between the two kinds of parole will determine what prospective steps forward should be taken to defend against alleged parole violations.

Is there a difference between county parole and Pennsylvania State parole?

There are significant differences between county and Pennsylvania State parole.  The procedures for seeking parole in the Common Pleas Court in the applicable Pennsylvania county are governed by 61 P.S. § 314.  Applications for state parole are governed by 61 P.S. § 331.22.  County parole revocation procedures in the Common Pleas Court are governed by Pa.R.Crim.P. 708, and revocation of Pennsylvania State parole is governed by the detailed regulations of the Pennsylvania Parole Board codified at 37 Pa.Code § 71 et seq. 

In addition, appeal from Common Pleas Court parole orders are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, while appeal from Pennsylvania State Parole Board decisions are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.  These principles were established in the Pennsylvania court case of Commonwealth v. McDermott, 377 Pa.Super. 623, 547 A.2d 1236 (1988).

When does the Pennsylvania Parole Board have jurisdiction over my parole?

The Pennsylvania Parole Act provides that for any maximum sentence of two years or more, the Pennsylvania Parole Board of Probation and Parole "shall have exclusive power to parole and re-parole, commit and re-commit for violations of parole and to discharge from parole all persons sentenced by any court in the Commonwealth [of Pennsylvania] for imprisonment in any prison or penal institution there..." (per 61 P.S. § 331.17).

What happens if I am paroled from a Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute?

If a defendant is paroled from a Pennsylvania "State" institution (a State Correctional Institute, known as an SCI, for example, rather than a county jail), he or she remains under the supervision of the Pennsylvania Parole Board until the expiration of his or her maximum sentence - 61 P.S. § 331.17.

When does my "back" judge have jurisdiction over my parole?

The Pennsylvania Parole Act places persons sentenced to a maximum of less than two years imprisonment outside the jurisdiction of the Board of Parole and retains parole jurisdiction of such persons in the (county) trial court itself.  Therefore, defendants sentenced to a maximum term of less than two years may be paroled, recommitted, or re-paroled by the sentencing judge (also known as the "back" judge at times).  A judge may not parole a person whose maximum sentence exceeds two years.

If the defendant's aggregate maximum sentence on consecutive sentences is two or more years, the sentence is deemed a Pennsylvania State sentence and the Court of Common Pleas in the applicable Pennsylvania County)has no authority to grant EARLY PAROLE.  Jurisdiction over the defendant's parole requests rests with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, and is not retained by the Court of Common Pleas, when defendants are sentenced to consecutive prison terms having a maximum aggregrate sentence of two or more years, although even if each component maximum sentence is less than two years.  These principles were established by the Pennsylvania court cases of Commonwealth v. Tilghman, 543 Pa. 578, 673 A.2d 898 (1996), and Commonwealth v. Miller, 770 A.2d 362 (Pa.Super 2001).

Can my county parole be supervised by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole?

Generally, the (applicable) county probation and parole department supervises county parole, although the sentencing judge may order supervision by the Pennsylvania State Board of Probation and Parole.  When this takes place, the sentencing judge still maintains jurisdiction over a county sentence even when the defendant's parole is supervised by the Pennsylvania State Board.

For example, if a defendant is sentenced to a term of not less than one year and not more than two years in either a state prison or county jail, the sentence is a state sentence and parole is supervised by the Pennsylvania State Board of Probation and Parole.  The Board determines when the defendant will be paroled, what constitutes a violation of parole and grounds for recommitment, and when the defendant may be re-paroled.  The Board, through its agents, also usually supervises that defendant's parole.  If the defendant is sentenced to a maximum of not more than 23 months, however, the sentence is a county sentence, and the sentencing judge determines when the defendant is to be paroled, when parole is violated and the defendant recommitted, and when the defendant may be re-paroled.  In such instances, the defendant's parole may be supervised by either the (applicable) county probation and parole department or by a parole agent of the Pennsylvania State Board.  (per 37 Pa.Code, Ch. 65)

DUI Convictions and Pennsylvania Parole Supervision

The Pennsylvania Legislature has created an exception to the Board's parole authority to give the Courts of Common Pleas in the Pennsylvania Counties the ability to direct and supervise drug and alcohol treatment for DUI offenders sentenced to serve a county or state sentence in a county jail.  Section 3815 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code provides as follows:

Notwithstanding the length of any maximum term of imprisonment imposed pursuant to Sections 3803 (relating to grading) and 3804 (relating to penalties), and notwithstanding the provisions of Section 17 of the act of August 6, 1941 (P.L. 861, No. 323), referred to as the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole Law, the sentencing judge may grant parole under the supervision of the county parole system to any offender serving a sentence for a violation of 3802 (relating to driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance) and, if applicable, serving any concurrent sentence of imprisonment for any misdemeanor offense arising from the same criminal episode as the violation of section 3802.  The power of the sentencing judge to grant parole shall apply only to those offenders whose sentences are being served in a county prison, pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9762 (relating to sentencing proceeding; place of confinement) or section 3804(d).

Where is the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole located?

The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole is located in Harrisburg and has offices in every state correctional institution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as well as in Philadelphia and Allentown.  The Board is represented in its court proceedings by the Office of the Attorney General in Harrisburg.

Which Pennsylvania Court has jurisdiction over state parole?

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, and the Common Pleas Court in the applicable Pennsylvania County or the Pennsylvania Superior Court, has original jurisdiction over state parole matters.

Pennsylvania Attorney to Fight Parole Violation | Lawyer to Defend Against Pennsylvania Parole Violation

If a person's sentence involves county parole versus being paroled from a Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute, the difference will determine what actions should be taken to achieve the best possible outcome when facing a parole violation.  No person facing such a burden should have to go it alone.  If you or a loved one is on county or state parole in Pennsylvania and is facing a violation or revocation hearing in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh, or Northampton County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Joseph D. Lento has nearly a decade of experience fighting for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, as well as New Jersey. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has nearly a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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