The COVID-19 pandemic impacted people in many facets of society, including those serving time in prison. Many inmates were able to obtain compassionate release during the pandemic, pursuant to the First Step Act. Since the introduction of vaccines, though, it has become more difficult to demonstrate such relief is warranted, as illustrated in a recent Michigan ruling issued in a case in which the defendant was convicted of numerous crimes. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is smart to meet with a Michigan criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights.
The Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant was convicted of identity theft and wire fraud and sentenced to serve 70 months in a federal penitentiary. One month prior to when his sentence was to begin, he moved for compassionate relief due to his concerns about the COIVD-19 pandemic. Specifically, he requested home confinement with an electronic monitoring system. His motion was denied due to his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies, and he began serving his sentence. The defendant subsequently filed a new motion, again arguing for a modification of his sentence. The court reviewed his motion and ultimately determined that such relief was not warranted.
Compassionate Release Under the First Step Act
The First Step Act altered the law regarding the compassionate release of federal prisoners, thereby allowing the courts to consider motions filed by people incarcerated in federal prisons who are striving to reduce their sentences. When presented with such a motion, a court must conduct a three-part test. Specifically, it must determine whether extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant a sentence reduction, ensure that such a reduction is consistent with relevant policy statements issued by the sentencing commission, and consider any applicable sentencing factors.
If the court meets all of these requirements, it may reduce the terms of a defendant’s imprisonment, but it does not need to do so. In the subject case, the court found that the defendant had not demonstrated that extraordinary and compelling reasons for his release existed. In other words, the court explained that generalized fears about contracting COVID-19, without more, do not establish a compelling reason for the release. The court noted that prior to the development and distribution of vaccines, the courts would consult guidance on high-risk factors to determine whether a person’s specific conditions rendered them a high risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19. Since vaccines became available, however, the courts started the inquiry with whether the inmate was offered and refused the vaccine and regularly decline compassionate release in such cases. Here, the defendant was offered and refused the vaccine three times. Thus, the court denied his motion.
Meet with a Trusted Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
Criminal defendants have many rights under state and federal laws, and it is crucial for anyone accused of a crime to understand their options for seeking a just result. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is prudent to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a trusted Michigan criminal defense lawyer with the knowledge and resources needed to help you seek the best outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Bernstein via the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.