Michigan Court Discusses Compassionate Release Under the First Step Act

The recent passage of the First Step Act (the Act) modified the law with regard to the release of federal prisoners for considerate reasons. Following the rise of COVID-19, many people incarcerated in federal prisons have sought release under the Act. As demonstrated in a recent ruling issued by a Michigan court, however, it can be challenging to demonstrate that compassionate release is warranted. If you have questions regarding whether you may be able to obtain a reduced sentence, it is wise to confer with a Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Defendant’s Allegations

It is alleged that in 2018, the defendant was convicted of multiple drug offenses and sentenced to 180 months in imprisonment in a federal penitentiary. In June 2020, she filed a motion for compassionate relief under the Act. In support of her motion, she argued that her obesity, history of heart surgery, and hypertension increased her risk of becoming severely ill or dying if she contracted COVID-19. The court ultimately denied her motion.

Compassionate Release Under the First Step Act

The Act modified the law relating to the compassionate release of federal prisoners, and in doing so allowed federal district courts to consider motions by incarcerated people asking for a reduction in their sentences. Under the Act, the courts must engage in a three-step test before granting a motion for compassionate release. First, they must find that compelling and extraordinary reasons exist that warrant a reduction in the sentence in question. Second, the court must make sure that the reduction aligns with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission. Finally, the court must weigh all the relevant sentencing factors.

If the court meets all of these requirements, it can choose to grant a motion for compassionate release but can decline to grant such relief. Compelling and extraordinary reasons are not limited to those set forth in the applicable statute, and the courts have the discretion to determine whether the specific circumstances warrant a compassionate release. The courts have held, however, that a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19, without more, is not a compelling and extraordinary reason for granting compassionate release. Further, the court found that the defendant’s arguments were not persuasive because she had been offered but refused a COVID-19 vaccine. Based on the foregoing, the court declined to grant the defendant’s motion for compassionate release, as she failed to demonstrate it was warranted.

Meet with a Trusted Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

The law allows people sentenced to imprisonment in federal penitentiaries to seek release in certain situations, but such relief is only granted in extraordinary circumstances. If you were charged with a federal offense, it is advisable to contact an attorney to determine your options for protecting your rights. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a trusted Michigan criminal defense lawyer who takes pride in helping criminal defendants fight for favorable outcomes, and if he represents you, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.



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