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Understanding a Gagnon hearing

If you are on probation or parole in Pennsylvania and violate one or more conditions of your probation or parole, you will be subject to a Gagnon hearing. In fact, you are subject to two of them: a Gagnon I hearing and a Gagnon II hearing.

Gagnon hearings are the means by which you are afforded your due process rights that come into play any time law enforcement officers or the probation department picks you up for technically violating your probation or parole or law enforcement officers arrest you on a new criminal charge.

Gagnon I hearing

Your Gagnon I hearing is similar to the preliminary hearing you likely had in your original criminal case. Only here, the purpose of this hearing is twofold: to have a judge determine whether or not probable cause exists that the violation occurred and whether or not you should be or remain in custody while awaiting your ultimate Gagnon II hearing. Bear in mind that a technical violation of your current probation or parole can consist of things such as the following:

  • Failing to report to your probation or parole officer as scheduled
  • Failing a drug test
  • Failing to attend mandated alcohol and/or drug treatment
  • Failing to pay fines and/or court costs
  • Failing to comply with any other condition of your probation or parole

Under normal circumstances, you will have your Gagnon I hearing seven to 10 days after your alleged technical violation or the date on which officers arrest you on new criminal charges.

Gagnon II hearing

The purpose of your Gagnon II hearing is to let a judge determine whether or not (s)he should revoke your probation or parole because of your alleged violation(s) or your arrest on new criminal charges. Usually the judge who presides at your Gagnon II hearing is the same judge who originally sentenced you for the crime(s) for which you now are on probation or parole.

Your Gagnon II hearing is similar to your original trial in that the judge hears evidence from both sides, yours and the “prosecution.” Your side can call witnesses to the stand, and your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses the “prosecution” calls to the stand. Unlike your original trial, however, the burden of proof in a Gagnon II hearing is “preponderance of the evidence.” This represents a considerably less demanding burden than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden required for a criminal conviction.

After hearing all the evidence, your judge will determine whether you should return to prison or whether your current probation or parole remains an effective way to accomplish your rehabilitation and prevent your future anti-social and/or criminal behavior.

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