Michigan Court Discusses Grounds for Compassionate Release

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted most facets of society, including those individuals that are currently incarcerated. Many people in prison have a higher risk of suffering severe illness due to COVID-19 and are justifiably concerned regarding the threats posed by the virus. Some individuals may be eligible for compassionate release, but demonstrating such release is warranted is difficult, as noted in a recent Michigan opinion issued in a case in which the defendant was convicted of a weapons offense. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is prudent to meet with a seasoned Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to determine your options for seeking a favorable result.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of federal law. He had an extensive history of criminal convictions, including felony convictions for assault and delivery and possession of drugs. He pleaded guilty to the firearms charge and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. He began serving his sentence in January 2019. The defendant filed two motions for compassionate release. He withdrew the first, and the second was denied. He then filed a third motion for compassionate release, which was also denied.

Grounds for Compassionate Release

Pursuant to the First Step Act, a district court can consider motions filed by incarcerated defendants asking for reductions in their sentences. In determining whether to grant a compassionate release motion, a court has to engage in a three-part analysis. First, it must find that compelling and extraordinary reasons warrant a reduced sentence. The court must then ensure that the reduction complies with the applicable policy statements issued by the sentencing commission. Finally, the court must weigh all relevant statutory sentencing factors. If the court finds that each requirement is met, it may reduce a prison sentence but is not required to do so.

In the subject case, the court found that the defendant had not demonstrated a compelling and extraordinary reason to justify a sentence modification and that the sentencing factors did not weigh in favor of a reduction. Specifically, the court noted that generalized fear of contracting COVID-19, in and of itself, is not a compelling reason to grant an individual compassionate release. The court explained that the defendant did not demonstrate that he suffered from any medical conditions that created a greater risk that he would suffer severe illness were he to contract the coronavirus. Further, the court found that even if he had shown there was a persuasive reason for a reduced sentence, a modification was nonetheless not warranted in light of the sentencing factors. As such, the court denied his motion.

Consult an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in Michigan

People with prior felony convictions are often prohibited from possessing guns, and face weapons charges if they are caught with firearms. If you are accused of committing a gun crime, it is smart to consult a lawyer regarding your potential defenses. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney with the skills and resources needed to help you pursue a successful outcome. Mr. Bernstein can be reached through the online form or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a meeting.

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