Compassionate Release if the Government Took No Position
Generally, courts are more likely to grant compassionate release petitions when the government took no position. However, defendants still have to show that they meet all requirements. A federal court in Arizona recently demonstrated that one of the most helpful factors for prisoners is the lack of government opposition.
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must provide adequate medical care to prisoners. Prisoners’ health conditions grow increasingly complex as they age. The First Step Act of 2018 provides an avenue for defendants to seek early release upon satisfying certain conditions.
In many cases, the BOP first denies the prisoner’s early release petition. The prisoner then files the motion in federal district court. After that, the government typically opposes prisoners’ motions for early release. Federal prosecutors do not welcome early release petitions and strive to maintain a hard stance on compassionate release cases.
Importantly, even when the government does not oppose a petition for compassionate release, the defendant must still meet the necessary conditions. The United States District Court for the District of Arizona recently granted a compassionate release petition in a rare case in which the government took no position.
Defendant’s Petition for Compassionate Release in U.S. v. Johns
In U.S. v. Lyle Gerald Johns, the defendant faced 40 years in prison for marijuana-related convictions and three concurrent life sentences for cocaine-related convictions. After serving 23 years of his sentence, he petitioned for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) and early release under Section 603(b)(1) of the First Step Act. He was 81 years old when he filed his petition. The government took no position on his petition.
Defendant’s Age-Related Medical Conditions
A BOP doctor testified that the defendant suffered from several age-related conditions. The defendant’s medical conditions included osteoporosis, poor balance, severe heart disease, a cerebral vascular accident, and peripheral vascular disease. Although the defendant could provide some self-care, the BOP doctor noted that age would decrease his capabilities.
Defendant’s Model Behavior in Prison and Community Safety Concerns
Furthermore, the BOP doctor confirmed that the BOP could not provide the constant medical care that the defendant required. In addition, the BOP doctor stated that he did not think the defendant was a danger to society in his condition. BOP records described him as a “model inmate.”
Consideration of Sentencing Trends for Drug Offenses
Notably, the court referenced the changes in sentencing for drug crimes since Johns’ conviction. Defense counsel argued that defendants now typically receive lesser sentences for drug trafficking crimes following Johns’ conviction. The judge agreed but noted that the defendant led the drug ring and trafficked in cocaine. Even so, the court found that a reduced sentence still matched the severity of the crime.
Defendant’s Successful Compassionate Release Petition
Ultimately, the court granted the defendant’s early release petition. Also, it required a home inspection prior to his release because the most recent one occurred more than two years prior. This was a considerable victory for compassionate release in Arizona
The court looked favorably upon the defendant’s established plans for his supervised release. The probation office already approved the residence where the defendant sought to live upon his early release. The court noted that this mitigated any potential danger that the defendant might pose.
The Aftermath of U.S. v. Johns for Compassionate Release Petitions When the Government Took No Position
The result of U.S. v. Johns contributes to helpful case law for supporting early release based on age-related medical conditions. In that case, the defendant served 23 years of a life sentence prior to petitioning. He also posed no threat to the community because of his debilitating condition.
Above all, the most favorable factor in the case was that the government took no position on the petition. It is more challenging to secure early release as a prisoner if the government opposes the petition. Even if the BOP denies a petition, the government can still choose to refrain from actively opposing it.
Defendants should not pull any punches when it comes to pursuing a compassionate release petition regardless of the government’s stance. The court can still decide that it does not meet the requirements of the First Step Act.
Filing Your Compassionate Release Petition
In conclusion, this case shows that there are certain circumstances in which the government will not put up an additional obstacle for compassionate release petitioners. However, those circumstances are rare. Defendants should anticipate having to prove their case each step of the way. Never sit back just because the government took no position on your petition.
Also, the defendant in Johns arranged his residence and lined up acceptable supervised release conditions before the court granted his petition. This eliminated any potential concerns that the defendant might be a danger to the community or commit another crime on early release. To the extent possible, defendants should try to line up these arrangements in conjunction with filing a compassionate release petition.
The defendant’s successful early release petition in the Arizona compassionate release case strengthens arguments that defendants who did not commit violent crimes and are not dangerous deserve early release when facing serious medical conditions.
Retain Brandon Sample PLC to File a Petition for Compassionate Release
You do not want to take any chances with your petition for compassionate release. As most district court cases show, the BOP routinely denies compassionate release requests. Therefore, you must be prepared to pursue your petition for compassionate release in federal district court. You should pursue your case just as vigorously even in the government took no position.
When you retain the lawyers of Brandon Sample PLC to seek early release, you will receive comprehensive legal guidance on all aspects of your petition. Our attention to detail and knowledge of the federal process will help you navigate the questions that come up throughout the process.
If you have a loved one who is incarcerated in federal prison, you can contact the helpful legal team at Brandon Sample PLC. We can assist you or your loved one explore possibilities for filing a petition for compassionate release. Call Brandon Sample PLC at 802-444-4357 today to discuss your case.