PA Supreme Court Limits Revocation of Probation for Parole Violations in Rosario

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 29, 2023 | 0 Comments

The PA Supreme Court decided Pennsylvania v. Rosario in June of 2023, holding that anticipatory revocation of probation is illegal in Pennsylvania. This decision was based on an earlier Pa. Superior Court ruling in Commonwealth v. Simmons, in 2021. Rosario and Simmons may be helpful to a defendant facing revocation of parole who wishes to prevent revocation of a probation sentence that has not yet begun.

Probation Violations

Probation in Pennsylvania is governed by 234 Pa. Code Rule 708. Generally, probation violations come in two forms: technical and substantive. A technical violation is any failure by the person on probation to comply with the conditions of probation, while a substantive violation is a new violation of law while on probation. If a person on probation has been questioned by law enforcement or committed a technical or substantive violation, they must notify their probation officer within 72 hours.

When an individual is on parole and has a new arrest or other serious violation, the individual will often be brought into custody and the parole revoked. A question arises of what effect a revocation of parole will have on a subsequent sentence of probation.

Parole With a Probation Tail

Criminal defendants often receive a jail or prison sentence followed by a period of probation and are paroled before serving the full jail or prison sentence. If a criminal defendant commits a parole violation and parole is revoked, what should the sentence be? For decades, PA courts assumed that a parole violation meant that the subsequent probation sentence would be revoked, and the probation sentence term would be served in jail. This is because the courts assumed that a parole violation would be an anticipatory revocation of probation.

Pennsylvania v. Rosario

The PA Supreme Court decided Pennsylvania v. Rosario in June of 2023, holding that anticipatory revocation of probation is illegal in Pennsylvania.

Defendant Rosario was sentenced to 2.5-5 years in jail, followed by five years of probation, and was paroled during his jail sentence. During his parole, Rosario committed a violation and was returned to jail. The trial court sentenced Rosario to the unserved portion of his original jail sentence plus an additional jail sentence of 5 years for the probation period, and Rosario appealed.

Effect of Rosario Ruling

Under Rosario, the maximum penalty for a parole violation is any part of the original jail sentence not yet served. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the PA Sentencing Code guidelines were ambiguous and that, under the Rule of Lenity, ambiguous laws should be interpreted in favor of criminal defendants. This is a particularly important ruling since it may be retroactive—it may apply to sentences imposed prior to the Rosario ruling.

The Lento Law Firm Are Experienced Attorneys

The Lento Law Firm has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. The Lento Law Firm Team is the premier law firm for probation issues in PA. Call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.

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Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than 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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