What is the penalty for getting arrested for drugs or guns while on state parole in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania State Parole Violations

Criminal Defense Lawyer Zak Goldstein

Criminal Defense Lawyer Zak Goldstein

The impact of new criminal charges for a person who is on state parole in Pennsylvania can be very confusing for the defendant and his or her loved ones. In general, a new arrest while under state parole is going to result in at least some amount of jail time because the parole board almost always lodges a parole detainer following a new arrest for a misdemeanor or felony criminal charge. Additionally, once the parole board lodges the detainer, it is usually not possible to get the detainer lifted because the judge who sentenced the defendant to prison time does not have the authority to have a state detainer lifted. Instead, only the parole board can lift the detainer, and the board usually does not do this unless the defendant has served the maximum sentence (“maxed out”). 

The parole board can impose severe consequences for a conviction for a new offense. This can include both taking away the parolee’s “street time,” meaning the time served on parole would not count towards the sentence, and requiring the parolee to serve a state parole hit or additional time in state prison. Therefore, if you or a loved one are facing new criminal charges while on state parole, it is important to retain a defense attorney who has the skill and expertise to resolve the case in a timely manner and in a way that minimizes the parole consequences. It is important to retain a defense attorney who is well-versed in what those potential consequences could be. In some cases, a defendant on state parole may simply need to do everything possible to win the case in order to avoid a set back, and in others, it may be possible to negotiate a plea deal that does not result in a significant amount of additional jail time or that reduces the amount of time that the parole board is likely to impose. 

Pennsylvania State Parole Set Backs for New Drug Charges

Deciding whether to go to trial or accept a plea deal is an extremely important decision for every criminal defendant. This decision can be even more difficult for a defendant who is on state parole because the defendant has to consider both the sentence that he or she would be facing on the new case as well as the sentence that the state parole board would be likely to impose. Fortunately, the parole board provides guidelines as to what kind of sentence a parolee can expect to serve in the event of a parole violation so that the system is not totally arbitrary.  

With respect to a new drug charge, the length of potential jail time for the parole violation depends on the type of the drug charge and the gradation of the offense. 

The regulations provide that a drug felony with a maximum of 15 years, such as the sale of heroin, could lead to a 24 to 36 month sentence for the parole violation. 

A drug felony with a maximum of ten years in prison, such as the sale of cocaine or crack, has a presumptive range of 18 months to 24 months in prison for the violation.

A drug felony with a maximum of five years, such as the sale of marijuana, has a shorter presumptive range of 9 to 15 months in state prison.

Misdemeanor narcotics offenses are punished less severely. A misdemeanor with a maximum of 2 or 3 years is likely to lead to a 6 to 12 month hit, while a misdemeanor with a maximum of one year is likely to lead to a 3 to 6 month hit.

It is important to note that these presumptive ranges are simply advisory. It is always possible that the parole board could impose a longer or shorter sentence for a direct violation of state supervision. 

Pennsylvania State Parole Hits for Gun Charges

The parole board also provides a presumptive setback for a Violation of the Uniform Firearms Act (“VUFA charge” or gun charge). According to the regulations, any defendant who is on state parole and is convicted of illegally possessing a firearm is likely to face an additional 18 months to 24 months in state prison in addition to whatever sentence the defendant receives on the new case. Therefore, a new gun charge arrest can be an extremely serious situation for a parolee.  

Can I get a state parole detainer lifted?

In general, you cannot get a state parole detainer lifted. In most cases, the defendant will remain in jail until the new case is resolved. If the defendant serves the maximum sentence, then the parole board would likely lift the detainer because the defendant would no longer be on parole. 

Can I get a county probation detainer lifted?

It is important to note that this discussion applies only to state parole detainers. County probation and state-supervised probation is very different. These presumptive ranges do not apply to potential probation violations. Instead, the judge which sentenced the defendant to probation would decide what sentence to impose in the result of a direct violation, and that sentence is not limited by any guidelines. At the same time, the judge may lift a probation detainer if the defendant’s lawyer files a motion to have the detainer lifted. 

Can I get a county probation detainer lifted if I am being supervised by the state? 

In some cases where a defendant receives a state sentence followed by a period of county probation, the judge may order that the state parole board supervise the defendant once the defendant is released and on probation. In that case, the defendant would be supervised by a state agent, but the judge would still retain jurisdiction to decide the penalty for a violation. The judge would also still have the authority to lift a detainer.  

What should I do if I’m arrested for a new charge and am on state parole?

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers

You should retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can give you the best possible chance to win your case at trial, preliminary hearing, or through a motion to suppress, or reduce the potential parole consequences through negotiations. If you are facing criminal charges or under investigation by the police, we can help. We have successfully defended thousands of clients against criminal charges in courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have successfully obtained full acquittals and dismissals in cases involving charges such as Conspiracy, Aggravated Assault, PWID, Rape, and Murder. Our award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers offer a free criminal defense strategy session to any potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with an experienced and understanding defense attorney today.