Published on: Friday, April 3, 2020

A growing number of courts have granted motions for compassionate release based on finding that "extraordinary and compelling circumstances" exists where defendant's show a particularly vulnerability to COVID-19 while incarderated.  In addition, some courts have waived the administrative exhaustion requirement in light of the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic and the serious potential for serious health consequences in requiring exhaustion.  Below is the relevant statutory basis for compassionate release, followed by a sample of recent Court orders and opinions granting compassionate release based, in part, on COVID-19.

A defendant may file a motion for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. . SS 3582(c)(1)(A)(i), as amended by the First Step Act, which provides:

the court, upon motion of the . . . defendant after the defendant has fully exhausted all administrative rights to appeal a failure of the Bureau of Prisons to bring a motion on the defendant's behalf or the lapse of 30 days from the receipt of such a request by the warden of the defendant's facility, whichever is earlier, may reduce the term of imprisonment (and may impose a term of probation or supervised release with or without conditions that does not exceed the unserved portion of the original term of imprisonment), after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable, if it finds that--

(i) extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction; or

(ii) the defendant is at least 70 years of age, has served at least 30 years in prison, pursuant to a sentence imposed under section 3559(c), for the offense or offenses for which the defendant is currently imprisoned, and a determination has been made by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons that the defendant is not a danger to the safety of any other person or the community, as provided under section 3142(g);

and that such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencig Commission.

  • US v. Jepsen, No. 3:19-cr-00073(VLB), 2020 WL 1640232 (D. Conn. Apr. 1, 2020) ("Mr. Jepsen is in the unique position of having less than eight weeks left to serve on his sentence, he is immunocompromised and suffers from multiple chronic conditions that are in flux and predispose him to potentially lethal complications if he contracts COVID-19, and the Government consents to his release.  The Court finds that the totality of the circumstances specific to Mr. Jepsen constitute 'extraordinary and compelling'reasons to grant compassionate release.")\

  • US v. Williams, No. 3:04-cr-95-MCR (N.D. Fla. Apr. 1, 2020) ("Williams' cardiovascular and renal conditions compromise his immune system, which, taken with his advanced age, put him at significant risk for even more severe and life threatening illness should he be exposed to COVID-19 while incarcerated.... Based on these facts, the Court finds that Williams' deterioration in physical health is sufficiently serious to satisfy the medical criteria for a reduction in sentence.")

  • US v. Resknik, No. 1:12-cr-00152-CM (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 2, 2020) ("Releasing a prisoner who is for all practical purposes deserving of compassionate release during normal times is all but mandated in the age of COVID-19")

  • US v. Foster, No. 1:14-cr-324-02 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 3, 2020) ("The circumstances faced by our prison system during this highly contagious, potentially fatal global pandemic are unprecedented. It is no stretch to call this environment 'extraordinary and compelling,' and we well believe that, should we not reduce Defendant's sentence, Defendant has a high likelihood of contracting COVID-19 from which he would "not expected to recover." USSG SS 1B1.13. No rationale is more compelling or extraordinary."). No rationale is more compelling or extraordinary.")