Legal Issues

Pardon, Parole or Punish?

In Utah, if you or someone you know is either facing a felony charge or has been convicted of a felony, it is likely that the entity called the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will play a role in your future.  The Board consists of 10 people with varying backgrounds including, but not limited to, prosecution, criminal defense, and mental health treatment.  Much like judges, these individuals are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature.

These 10 members of the Board have a great amount of power.  The obvious one is that they will determine when an offendor is released from his prison sentence and if released, whether they are released on parole or their case is just closed.  They also will hear evidence on any parole violations and hand down the sentence or consequence for said violation.

Another area of a sentencing that they may rule on is restitution.  In fact, they can amend a restitution order that has previously been ruled on by the sentencing judge.

While there are guidelines and standard time periods before release and hearings, according to the type of crime an inmate is in prison for, the Board may grant special hearings to address different issues, including early release.  It is not a given that upon request an inmate will receive a special attention hearing, but if the hearing is granted, the Board reviews everything sent in, hears from the offender and issues a ruling on the request.

Finally, the Utah Legislature has entrusted so much power with the Board of Pardons and Parole that it can overrule expungement requirements that the legislature itself made law.  This is done through pardons wherein if the Board votes for the pardon, the offendor can expunge a crime from their criminal record, even if it’s the type of crime that is NOT expungeable according to Utah Law.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole is probably a familiar term to most people, however, the amount of power these 10 people hold over all felony offenders in Utah is most likely understood by only a few.  It’s arguable that they have much more power and control over the sentencing of a case than the actual sentencing Judge.  Even more interesting, it is unlikely an offender whose future is held in the Board’s hands, will ever even know their names, or who is behind that great wizard’s curtain.

Photo Courtesy of: Stuart Miles@freedigitalphotos.net

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