Criminal Defense

Petitioning For Compassionate Release During COVID-19

By
Michael Salnick
May 5, 2020

Slanick & Fuchs, P.A. is working with inmates and their families to secure a potential early release from prison in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salnick & Fuchs, P.A. is working with inmates and their families to secure a potential early release from prison in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently incarcerated individuals serving a federal sentence may be granted an early release under the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Compassionate Release Program. For vulnerable individuals currently incarcerated, a motion to reduce their sentences may be filed on their behalf.

The West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys at Salnick & Fuchs, P.A. are working on petitions for compassionate release where applicable in state and federal courts. These are on a case by case basis and there is no legal precedent at this time mandating anyone's release.

If you have a loved one currently serving a prison sentence, we encourage you to give our office a call to learn more about compassionate release.

About The Compassionate Release Program

Under the Federal Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) Compassionate Release program, certain inmates are permitted to petition to be released from prison before their sentences are complete for extraordinary and compelling circumstances. The program allows inmates, or their family members, to request a reduced sentence for a number of reasons, such as a serious medical condition. To be eligible for compassionate release, the inmate must no longer pose a significant threat to society.

Additionally, the First Step Act expands the Compassionate Release program by allowing judges to release federal inmates during this pandemic, especially those with serious illnesses or conditions or those that are especially vulnerable to the virus, such as elderly inmates or those with pre-existing respiratory issues. 

The First Step Act was passed to create a more equitable system and facilitate an inmates’ transition from prison to society when serving long sentences. If the BOP refuses a request for compassionate release, then inmates have the option to petition the court for early release. 

Compassionate Release For Reasons Related To COVID-19

The Coronavirus presents a clear health threat to incarcerated individuals. The World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, and federal and local health leaders have issued guidelines to slow the spread of the novel disease. Just some of the measures they recommend are social distancing, regularly washing hands and limiting the number of people gathered to groups of 10 or less - all of which is nearly impossible to do while incarcerated.

In Florida, there have been multiple confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the State’s prison system. This presents not only a danger to inmates, but the corrections officers, attorneys and staff that work in the prison system as well.

The Compassionate Release program allows for early release under “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances. In addition, the First Step Act provides judges with the ability to grant an early release for serious health conditions. For inmates and their families, this presents two opportunities for them to petition for an early release curing COVID-19.

Petitions are handled on a case by case basis, and there is no precedent that legally requires an inmate's early release - even if you or a loved one are vulnerable to COVID-19. Below, we will discuss who may be eligible for compassionate release, however, it is critical to consult with a criminal defense attorney who can help you and your family through the petition process. 

Who Is Eligible For Compassionate Release During COVID-19?

Inmates with “extraordinary and compelling circumstances” may be eligible for compassionate release during COVID-19. The BOP and the U.S. Sentencing Commission have guidelines for what “extraordinary and compelling circumstances” may prompt an early release or reduced sentence.

This may include medical conditions, such as a terminal diagnosis, a debilitating medical condition, diminishing cognitive functioning, such as Alzheimers may qualify an inmate for compassionate release.

Family circumstances may also lead to an early release or reduced sentence. For example, if an inmates spouse become incapacitated, and the inmate is the primary caretaker, then they may be eligible for the compassionate release program.

Elderly inmates may also be eligible for compassionate release. For example, inmates that are over 65 years old with failing health and who have served at least 10 years or 75% of their original sentence may qualify.

Even if the above conditions are present, however, a decision for compassionate release will be determined in light of the risk posed to society for releasing the individual. Under the Compassionate Release program, only inmates who are no longer a danger to society will be released. Judges may use existing guidelines to assess the risk posed by granting an early release. These factors may include the nature of the crime committed, the character of the inmate, ties to the local community and family, history of drug and alcohol abuse and length of time served.

A judge’s determination may vary spending on the specific facts of each individual inmate’s case. If you have questions about your situation, we encourage you to call our office for a free consultation.

Filing For Compassionate Release During COVID-19

Even if you believe that your situation qualifies for an early release under the Compassionate Release program, you will still need to present a compelling case in support of your request. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney will help you build the best case possible. To be successful in your petition for early release, you will need to demonstrate the following:

An extraordinary and compelling justification for your request.

For example, contracting the Coronavirus may warrant the review of your petition. Supporting documentation, such as medical information or a letter from a medical professional, is important in a judge’s determination of whether or not to grant an early release.

Releasing you back into society does not put the community at risk.

In this case, gathering character references who can vouch for your good behavior would be helpful in securing your release. Your history as an inmate as well as your physical condition may also be taken into account.

A plan to re-enter society after being incarcerated.

Prior to being released from prison for COVID-19, the court will want to know where you plan to live and who will be taking care of you during this time. You should create a plan prior to making your petition.

Salnick & Fuchs, P.A. Is Here To Help

Both the Compassionate Release program and the First Step Act present vulnerable inmates to petition for early release during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, every case is different and individuals may be treated differently depending on the unique facts of their case. To ensure the best outcome possible, we encourage you to work with a criminal defense attorney to build the strongest case possible for your release.

If you or a loved one is currently serving a prison sentence during COVID-19, and you are concerned about the health risks posed by the Coronavirus, then call Salnick & Fuchs, P.A. today. We will help you determine the best path forward and create a strategy to secure your early release so that you can focus on your health and your family during this time.

Michael Salnick

Michael Salnick is a criminal defense attorney who has been practicing state and federal criminal law for over 38 years and has become one of the most experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers in America.

Call us today at
561-471-1000