Compassionate release was codified into law under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(l)(A). It modifies the First Step Act. Compassionate Release is a vital resource available to federal defendants who suffer from serious physical health problems or are the primary caretakers for family members who have such medical issues. Defendants who file a motion and successfully demonstrate “extraordinary and compelling” health reasons are granted the opportunity to be released from prison early. This can greatly improve quality of life and even extend lifespans.
Unfortunately, in recent years, there has been a growing trend of federal prosecutors drafting plea offers which include waivers that explicitly prevent defendants from filing for compassionate release. Attorney Fogt has always considered this practice to be unfair to defendants. Plea deals that prohibit compassionate release are coercive because defendants have limited influence over the language and conditions of plea agreements. In addition, defendants cannot predict what health problems they might experience in the future, which could make them eligible for compassionate release. For example, someone could be perfectly healthy when they sign a plea agreement, but they might later develop cancer, breathing problems, heart issues, or some other serious medical condition while in prison.
Thankfully, there is good news. On March 11, 2022, Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a Memorandum (https://www.npr.org/2022/03/11/1086140965/justice-department-ends-limiting-compassionate-release-in-plea-deals-after-npr-s) instructing all U.S. Attorneys to immediately stop including compassionate release waivers in their plea agreements. This ensures that prosecutors are no longer able to use plea offers to pressure defendants to forfeit their ability to file for compassionate release. In addition, any compassionate release waivers that have already been signed are now unenforceable, meaning defendants can now file for compassionate release even if their plea agreements prohibited them from doing so.
The Memorandum will have a positive impact on the legal system as well as the lives of countless defendants, inmates, and families. It was a victory for justice.
If you believe that you or someone you know might qualify for compassionate release, contact Fogt Law Office to discuss your options.