Another broad sweeping victory for Compassionate Release!

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Another broad sweeping victory for Compassionate Release!

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has ruled that district courts have it within their discretion to determine what constitutes extraordinary and compelling circumstances.

Today the Tenth Circuit joined several other Circuits in concluding that the courts are not bound to the dated U.S. Sentencing Commissions interpretation of what constitutes extraordinary and compelling circumstances, but instead has the authority to determine what constitutes those circumstances itself.

In U.S. v. Maumau, case number 20-4056, the Tenth CIrcuit states

“We therefore conclude that district courts, in applying the first part of § 3582(c)(1)(A)’s statutory test, have the authority to determine for themselves what constitutes “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” but that this authority is effectively circumscribed by the second part of the statutory test, i.e., the requirement that a district court find that a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to §§ 994(a)(2)(C) and (t). In other words, we conclude that Congress did not, by way of § 994(t), intend for the Sentencing Commission to exclusively define the phrase “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” but rather for the Sentencing Commission to describe those characteristic or significant qualities or features that typically constitute “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” and for those guideposts to serve as part of the general policy statements to be considered by district courts under the second part of the statutory test in § 3582(c)(1)(A).”

This means that while the courts will consider the Sentencing Commissions description of “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” it is the courts themselves that have the ultimate say in what constitutes an extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release.

The government has been arguing that extraordinary and compelling reasons for compassionate release are limited to those circumstances which are described by the Sentencing Commission.  Many prisoners who bring motions before the court that cite reasons which fall outside of the Sentencing Commissions narrow description of extraordinary and compelling circumstance, have faced fierce opposition. This has even led to some dissent among the Circuits.

This Tenth Circuit decision has significantly shifted the tide in favor of expanded use of Compassionate Release. The Tenth Circuit joins the Forth, Sixth, Second, and Seventh in setting clear precedent for the expanded use of Compassionate Release.

Determining exactly what constitutes extraordinary and compelling reasons for Compassionate Release is unique to the individual. Medical reasons, personal and family hardships, age-related issues, and even exposure to COVID-19, have all been grounds to grant Compassionate Release. Additionally, some defendants have been successful claiming harsh sentences and post conviction rehabilitation as extraordinary and compelling circumstances.

This means extraordinary and compelling circumstances could include a wide variety of issues. There has already been cases of Compassionate Release related to sentence length, sentence type, and sentence structure, (see U.S. v Urkevich, 2020 LEXIS 197408 D. Nebraska). This is especially true in cases where the defendant would be facing a lesser sentence had they been sentenced today.

In addition, the courts have even found that an inmates ‘ remarkable post conviction rehabilitative efforts could be cause for a compassionate release, ( U.S. v. Marks 2020 LEXIS 68828 W.D. New York). This allows for those individuals who have demonstrated a significant effort to rehabilitate, to claim extraordinary and compelling reasons.

If you believe that you have extraordinary and compelling reasons, then you may just be eligible. Anyone can file for Compassionate Release. Moreover, with the new criteria for Compassionate Release, there are many circumstances that may be considered extraordinary and compelling.

Also, keep in mind another change to the criteria for Compassionate Release allows inmates faster access to the courts. The new criteria for compassionate release allows access within 30 days of filing the initial request to the institutional warden.

If you believe that you have extraordinary and compelling reasons for Compassionate Release, then you may be eligible for Compassionate Release. 

The first step is to submit an official request to the institutional warden, asking for a Compassionate Release. The warden has (30) days to respond. This is a critical step in the process, and it is important that an inmates ‘ request be thorough and complete.

If an inmates request is not granted within (30) days, 18 U.S.C. subsection 3582 (c) (1) (A) allows for a motion to be filed in the court, requesting consideration for Compassionate Release.

If you or someone you know is interested in filing a Compassionate Release, please contact Brandon Sample PLC for more information.

 

[email protected]

About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist. Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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