Florida Court Declines to Modify Sentence Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus spread rapidly through many prisons, causing extreme illness, death, and fear of lasting health concerns. Thus, many inmates with concerning health issues have sought modifications of their sentences under the CARES Act and other federal statutes, but such requests are not readily granted. Recently, a Florida court issued an opinion explaining the grounds for reducing or changing a sentence in light of the pandemic in a case in which the petitioner was imprisoned for multiple theft crimes. If you are accused of stealing property or any other crime, it is advisable to confer with a skilled Tampa theft defense attorney to discuss your options.

The Defendant’s Petition

It is reported that the defendant was convicted of possessing unauthorized access devices and aggravated theft in violation of federal law and sentenced to thirty months imprisonment followed by three years of probation. He was housed at a federal prison. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the defendant petitioned the court for a modification of his sentence. Specifically, he requested a release to home confinement under the CARES Act or a compassionate release under federal law. Upon review, the court denied his petition.

Reductions and Modifications of Sentences

Typically, a court cannot change a term of imprisonment after it has been imposed. In other words, district courts have no inherent authority to alter a prison sentence and can only do so when permitted by statute or rule. The defendant first requested a modification of his sentence to home release pursuant to the CARES Act. The court noted, however, it lacked the authority to grant this relief.

Specifically, after a sentence is imposed, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) dictates where a person will be imprisoned. While the CARES Act expanded the BOP’s right to use house confinement, it did not remove the BOP’s authority to designate where a prisoner’s sentence will be served or extend that right to any other party. Thus, the defendant’s request for home confinement was denied.

The court also declined to grant the defendant’s request for compassionate release. The court explained that it had the authority to reduce a term of imprisonment if, after reviewing the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. 3553, it found that compelling and extraordinary reasons warranted a reduction. Such a reduction should only be granted in cases in which the defendant does not pose a threat to society, however. In the subject case, the court found that the defendant failed to establish that the factors weighed in favor of a reduced sentence. Thus, his request was denied.

Meet with a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney in Tampa

Simply because people are charged with or convicted of crimes does not mean they no longer have any rights, and some people may be eligible for modified sentences in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are accused of theft or any other offense, it is prudent to meet with a lawyer regarding your options. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned criminal defense attorney who can aid you in seeking the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Hanlon via the form online or by calling 813-228-7095 to schedule a meeting.