Passed in 2021 year, and taking effect in March 2022, are sweeping changes to New York’s parole/community supervision laws. Collectively called “Less is More”, this legislation amends multiple sections of the Executive and Penal laws, aimed at ending supervision sooner, and removing harsh punishments for a variety of technical violations. While these changes are far-reaching, they are aimed at some specific circumstances. If you or a loved one are on parole, speak to a criminal lawyer that handles parole violations about whether these changes can help.
What Is The “Less Is More” Parole Rule And What Does The “Less Is More” Law Mean?
You won’t find “Less is More” as its own standalone law. Instead, it changes how Executive Laws §259 and §259-i operate, as well as Penal Laws §70.40 and §70.45.
The major points to the “Less is More” rules include the following:
- Less time spent on parole
- Lower likelihood of re-incarceration
- More opportunities to challenge allegations against you while you remain out of jail
- Reduced penalties for actual violations
Will The “Less Is More” Rule Change The Amount Of Time Spent On Parole?
Yes. Under the “less is more” rule, the law now provides that you will receive thirty (30) days of credit, for every (30) days you are on parole, effectively cutting your actual supervision by half.
Those already on parole when the law took effect (March 1, 2022) can have up to (2) years of credit retroactively given to them. New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) has until September 17, 2022, to properly calculate everyone’s personal credit.
Also, parolees have the right to be informed every 180 days, by DOCCS, of the total earned time credit they have been given, whether any other potential time is being withheld, and their new calculated earliest release date. While DOCCS works to meet their September deadline, know that your calculation must be provided to you.
Does The Law Now Recognize Different Levels Of Parole Violations And Treat Different Parole Violations Differently?
Yes. There are now formal definitions of a “technical violation” versus a “non-technical” one. A “technical violation” is basically breaking a release condition like missing an appointment with your parole officer or missing your curfew. A “non-technical violation” largely means allegedly committing a new felony or misdemeanor.
These changes are important positive results for parolees. Previously, the vast majority of re-incarceration was for technical violations and the parolee would be remanded, meaning they would have no right to be released while the violation was pending, and little else was considered other than the technical violation when determining additional jail or prison time. However, the “less is more” rules have now changed that.
Also, the law also now defines “absconding”. Absconding now means intentionally avoiding supervision by failing to maintain contact with your parole officer or changing your address without notification, and that your parole officer has made reasonable efforts to re-engage with you.
If I Am Alleged To Have Violated Parole, Do I Now Have More Rights Under The “Less Is More” Rule?
Yes. Regardless of severity, or whether your violation is technical or non-technical, the way your violation is handled will now look quite different.
A technical violation will result in a notice of violation that requires an appearance in a community court as opposed to a warrant and immediate incarceration.
A non-technical violation, which again likely means you’ve been charged with a new crime, allows for the right to be heard within twenty-four (24) hours as to whether you should be held pending the outcomes of your new charges. Please know that because these non-technical violations involve new charges, you may be held in jail on those (see Bail Reform blog), and so even if you are to be released on the parole violation, you may still need to find a way to be released from the criminal charges as well.
Also, your hearings now must take place in community courts as opposed to inside the jail. These hearings have had their standards of proof raised.
And you also have expanded appellate rights, beyond simple administrative appeals. Now, if there is a finding of a non-technical violation, the appeal may potentially be brought in a city, district, county or supreme court. You have the absolute right to counsel as part of this appeal.
Under “Less Is More” Will The Punishment For A Parole Violation Change?
Yes. Reincarceration is now no longer permitted if you are only charged with technical violations that include:
- Missed curfew
- Alcohol/drug use (unless you are on parole for a DWI/DWAI)
- Failure to notify your Parole Officer of an employment change
- Failure to notify your Parole Officer of police contact, unless it’s done to hide illegal behavior
- Failure to pay your court fees
- Getting a driver’s license or driving itself, unless your conviction itself explicitly prohibits such conduct
For all other technical violations jail punishments include:
- 0 days for a 1st/2nd violation
- 7 days for a 3rd violation
- 15 days for a 4th violation
- 30 days for a 5th or subsequent violation
Technical or absconding violations have heavier penalties, however they are reduced compared to how they were handled in the past as well.