Parole Eligibility in Missouri: What You Need to Know

Parole provides those imprisoned in Missouri with the opportunity to be released early under supervision. For many, this provides the chance to start living in the community again, find work, and reconnect with family members. However, a parole hearing is required before this can happen, and no one is automatically paroled. Learn more about the eligibility for parole and how to handle an upcoming parole hearing to have a better idea of what to expect from this process. 

Determining Eligibility for Parole

Lawyer and judge speaking next to the criminal in handcuffs - criminal defense attorney

The eligibility for parole depends on how long the person has been incarcerated, the crime they’re convicted of, and whether they’re serving an enhanced sentence. Missouri’s minimum parole eligibility determines the earliest time period for someone to be paroled, though the person will need to go through a hearing to determine if parole is approved. 

For instance, the minimum time for those who are convicted of DWI, drug, or non-violent class C felonies is when 15% of the sentence has been served. For those convicted of violent, sexual, or child abuse cases, parole eligibility is not until 33% of the sentence has been served. In other cases, such as life sentences of 45 years or more, 15 years must be served, and if the person received multiple life sentences, there is not a minimum eligibility date set. 

There are some offenses that are not eligible for parole. These charges include murder in the first degree, unless the person was under the age of 18 when the act occurred, persistent sexual offenses, tampering with a victim or witness, or charges where the convicted is considered a class X offender and sentenced to 25 years or less imprisonment. 

Applying for Parole

If someone has met the minimum eligibility date for parole, they can request a parole hearing. At this time, it is advised the person speaks with a Criminal defense attorney Springfield about the possibility of parole, what can impact their ability to receive parole, and what they need to do to have a better chance of being released. It is important to prepare for the parole hearing carefully to have a better chance of being released. After applying for parole, the person will need to wait until the hearing to determine if they are going to be released. 

The Parole Hearing

old fashioned jury photo

A parole hearing is needed to determine if the person will be released or if they will remain imprisoned until another parole hearing. During the parole hearing, the person can give their version of the offenses and prior convictions, discuss plans for rehabilitation, state why they should be paroled, and present their plans for the future. The hearing panel will review all material that relates to the case, including medical and psychiatric reports as well as prior arrests and convictions. The panel will then assess the person using the ORAS to determine if they will be released. 

The ORAS or Ohio Risk Assessment System is a method of determining the factors that can push someone toward negative or criminal behaviors. This assessment determines the likelihood that someone will end up arrested again in the future. The panel uses the results from the assessment to determine if the person should be given parole now, if it should be denied, or if it should be offered in the future. The assessment looks at the previous convictions, how long the person went between convictions, their current age, whether the current offense has a high rate of repeat offenders, whether parole or probation has ever been revoked for the person in the past, whether the person had any conduct violations during imprisonment, and more. 

Possible Decisions for Parole

There are three main decisions that can be made at the parole hearing. The panel can set a presumptive parole date, in which case the person will be released on that date under a supervised release. If parole is denied, it is possible for the panel to set a conditional release date or a maximum release date, and there will be a hearing at some point in the future. If parole is denied, but the decision could change in the near future, the panel may decide to deny parole but set a future hearing date to discuss the possibility again. It is important to remember that a presumptive release date doesn’t mean that the person will be released, as there are times when the release can be rescinded, such as if the panel finds out that information was concealed or if new information becomes available. 

What Can Impact the Possibility of Parole

The main two reasons someone could be denied parole include the seriousness of the offense and whether there’s a high chance the person will end up violating the law again. Certain offenses, such as those with weapons or violence involved, those that impacted the community significantly, or other situations, may mean that the person will not receive parole as soon as they’re eligible. Parole can also be denied if the person’s history shows they abuse drugs or alcohol, are a dangerous or persistent offender, did not adjust to imprisonment well, or have been arrested multiple times with short periods between the arrests. In any of these cases, it is likely the person will be denied parole and will need to apply again in the future. 

Those who are eligible for parole based on the sentence received and the amount of time served have the option of applying for parole and attending a hearing. It is recommended they have a Springfield criminal defense attorney to help them through this process. Though an attorney is not required, those going through a parole hearing have the option to have someone with them at the hearing. An attorney will help the person determine what needs to be done to have a better chance of being paroled and help them prepare for the hearing by knowing what to do and what to say. With the right help, it is more likely the person will end up released on parole instead of being denied.