In the state of Texas, the term “blue warrant” refers to a parole revocation warrant. Parole is distinguished from probation. Parole is community supervision for an offender who has been convicted of a crime and has served part of their prison sentence.
Probation is community supervision that does not require the offender to have served time in jail or prison.
Texas Board Revokes Parole Warrant
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (the Board) issues a blue warrant when a parole officer files a violation report. The term “blue warrant” may come from the fact that such a warrant once was issued on blue paper or was contained within a blue jacket cover.
A blue warrant provides information for a law enforcement officer to arrest the subject of the warrant and place them in a local county jail, like the Houston County Jail.
A blue warrant is not the same type of warrant document as a regular arrest warrant issued by a court because a blue warrant is a warrant for an administrative court held by the Board. An offender who is arrested on a blue warrant will not have their parole case heard at a criminal court date.
Finding Status of Blue Warrant
A blue warrant is usually published in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and/or the Texas Crime Information Center (TCIC) fugitives warrant database. A person who has a question as to whether they or a loved one has an active blue warrant should contact the offender’s parole officer.
They should provide the parole officer’s name and their chain of command’s contact information.
Arrest on a Blue Warrant
An offender arrested on a blue warrant may be held in custody at the jail before a preliminary hearing. If the court issues a summons rather than a warrant for the infraction, the offender may remain in the community, meaning they are not in custody. The offender must work, attend programs or remain with their family before the hearing takes place.
The Board can withdraw its outstanding warrant before the revocation hearing. If it does so, it may continue supervising the offender with or without additional "graduated" local sanctions.
Meaning of Graduated Sanctions
The term graduated sanctions means incremental responses to noncompliant behavior, like a parole violation. For example, if an offender is late for a meeting with their parole officer, they may be required to pay a fine.
If the offender misses the meeting with their parole officer, they can face a more severe fine or see the Board reinstate the blue warrant.
Who Can Bond Out
It is possible for an offender to bond out on a blue warrant. To do this, the Board must set bond, and the offender must make bond. An offender is ineligible to bond out if they:
- Were convicted of, have been, or are on parole for an offense listed in Texas Penal Code Title 7, Chapter 29, which covers robbery and aggravated robbery, or in Chapter 5, Chapter 22, which covers assaultive offenses, including assault, homicide, kidnapping and trafficking.
- Committed a new offense while on parole release.
- Are not in custody.
- Have been deemed a threat to public safety.
An offender can only have committed technical violations or administrative violations in order to remain eligible to bond out. A positive urine test for alcohol or breaking curfew could be considered technical violations.
Who Decides an Offender's Hearing
Hearings are decided by the majority of a three-member parole panel composed of Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles members and parole commissioners. There are seven panel locations throughout Texas.
The panel that considers an offender’s case is typically determined by the place where the offender is in custody. Board analysts at each panel location review hearings for presentation to the panel.
A parole panel’s options include:
- Proceed to a revocation hearing.
- Transfer offender to an Intermediate Sanction Facility (ISF), an in-custody treatment alternative for medium to high-risk felony offenders.
- Transfer offender to a Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility (SAFPF), a facility for inmates with a history of substance abuse.
- Allow offender to remain on supervision with or without modifying conditions of release.
- Discharge offender from parole (stop their parole) if past the discharge date.
- Revoke offender’s parole or mandatory supervision release. This requires the offender to return to an incarceration facility or alternative such as an ISF to serve remainder of their sentence.
Types of Parole Hearings
The three types of administrative hearings for parole in Texas are:
- Preliminary hearing: Determines whether probable cause exists to proceed to a revocation hearing. Only an offender with pending criminal charges or unfiled charges is entitled to a preliminary hearing.
- Revocation hearing: Determine whether a preponderance of credible evidence exists to believe offender has violated one or more conditions of release. Preponderance of credible evidence means likelihood of over 50 percent that the offender incurred a violation.
- Mitigation hearing: Same as revocation hearing. Determines whether felony offender with term of incarceration in prison should have parole revoked. It is a limited hearing to allow offender to share why parole should not be revoked.
Waiving the Hearing Process
The offender may have the right to waive the preliminary hearing and/or the revocation hearing if they are eligible to do so. The Board determines which offenders may waive their hearings. An offender who is not competent to understand the allegations against them cannot waive their hearing.
The term "not competent to understand" means an offender with an IQ of 70 or below; currently on the Special Needs Offender Program (SNOP) caseload; or has an active psychiatric diagnosis.
When an offender waives a hearing, they do not have to go through the process of a hearing for the parole panel to make a decision regarding their status.
Offender’s Rights in the Hearing
After an offender is detained, and the Parole Division requests a hearing, they are interviewed by a parole officer. In a revocation hearing, the offender has certain rights. They have the right to:
- Be personally served with a written notice of their alleged parole violations.
- Have a preliminary hearing unless they are accused only of administrative violations or were convicted of a new criminal offense.
- Have a revocation hearing if the offender is alleged to have committed administrative violations or was found guilty in a criminal case.
- Have a full disclosure of all the evidence against them before the hearing.
- Hire a defense attorney, and under certain circumstances, the conditional right to a state-appointed attorney.
- Tell the hearing officer in person what happened.
- Present evidence, affidavits (written statements confirmed by oath or affirmation), letters and documents that support their position.
- Subpoena witnesses through the Board's subpoena process, which differs from that of a criminal court. The parole officer requests subpoenas for witnesses that the offender identifies.
- Confront and cross-examine adverse (unfavorable) witnesses, unless the hearing officer finds good cause to deny the confrontation.
- Be heard on the allegations by a person designated by the Board.
- Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles: What Happens When a Warrant Is Issued?
- Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles: Actions Taken During the Parole Revocation Process
- Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles: What Happens When the Parole Division Asks for the Hearing?
- Texas Department of Criminal Justice: Parole Department
- Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Office of the Independent Ombudsman: Frequently Asked Questions
- Texas Penal Code: Title 5 Offenses Against the Person, Chapter 22 Assaultive Offenses
- Texas Penal Code: Title 7 Offenses Against Property, Chapter 29 Robbery
- Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles: How Does the Board Make Revocation Decisions?
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.