How the First Step Act Impacts Your Federal Criminal Case

First Step Act (FSA)

In 2018, the First Step Act (FSA) was signed into law. The act was created to achieve three main goals: to improve criminal justice outcomes, to reduce the size of the federal prison population, and creating mechanisms to maintain public safety. Importantly, the First Step Act contains a number of provisions which ease mandatory minimum sentences and for some, provides retroactive applicability to reduce sentences for those already incarcerated.

Inmate in prison holding jail bars waiting for First Step Act attorney to get his release paperwork processed

Here are a few of the highlights of the First Step Act:

  • Retroactive Sentencing Reform

     Individuals convicted of crack cocaine offenses should consult an attorney as the FSA includes a modification to the mandatory minimums for some drug offenders. To put in in context, for many years courts applied disparate sentences to convictions involving crack cocaine compared to white powder cocaine.

  • The “safety valve” provision

     It allows a judge more flexibility in sentencing for qualifying low-level drug offenders.

  • Compassionate Release

     New procedures for compassionate release sentence reductions went into effect with the FSA. An attorney can provide guidance on what reasons are considered by the courts to be “extraordinary and compelling”, such as terminal medical conditions, debilitative, progressive illness, elderly prisoners (with or without medical conditions), and possible family circumstances, such as the death or incapacitation of a caregiver to the inmate’s minor child. The First Step Act gives an inmate the power to file a motion for compassionate release if they can demonstrate trying and failing to convince the Bureau of Prisons of a release. Prior to the FSA, the request and subsequent denial by the BOP was not appealable.

  • Good Time Credit

    Some offenders may be eligible to earn “Good Time Credit” towards pre-release custody earlier then previously allowed. Pre-release custody is generally home confinement of a residential re-entry center. It should be noted that some offenders are ineligible to benefit from this provision. Excluded are those who’ve been convicted of violent crime, terrorism, high-level drug offenses, and sexual exploitation as well as other similar crimes. A full list of disqualifying offenses can be found here.

  • Risk Assessment Programs

     a new risk assessment system will gauge an inmate’s recidivism risk(s) and offer educational tools and counter programming, through community-based organizations, to address and reduce this risk.

First Step Act Attorney in Columbus, Ohio

How can you determine if you or your loved one qualifies under the new provisions of the First Step Act?

First, call an experienced attorney who can determine eligibility. There are many different aspects which may be considered. While some portions of the First Step Act are relatively straight forward, there may be other factors that need to be evaluated by an experienced lawyer. A federal criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights. Attorney W. Joseph Edwards has been practicing law in Columbus, Ohio for the past thirty years. Call today for a free consultation of your local, state, or federal criminal case at 614-309-0243.

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