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Early Release from Federal Probation and Supervised Release

Post #1 of a 3-Part Series

In this first part to our series on early release from federal supervised release, we’ll take a close look at the statutory factors that judges must consider when somebody on supervision asks for early termination. The only unbreakable rule here is that one year of supervision must expire before anyone is eligible for early termination. The rest is up to the judge.

Note: the information in this post applies only to supervised release. Probation-only sentences are different, and are treated differently in the context of early termination. This is because probation-only sentences combine both punishment and supervision where sentences with prison terms followed by supervised release separate those two components.

The next installment deals with the factors by policy that judges may consider, but aren’t mandated to.

Judicial Considerations by Law

Ten sentencing factors are required to be considered by Courts when determining an appropriate sentence. Eight of these factors are also required to be considered when Courts decide to impose a term of supervised release.

“The court, in determining whether to include a term of supervised release, and, if a term of supervised release is to be included, in determining the length of the term and the conditions of supervised release, shall consider the factors set forth in section 3553(a)(1), (a)(2)(B), (a)(2)(C), (a)(2)(D), (a)(4), (a)(5), (a)(6), and (a)(7).”18 U.S.C. §3583(a).

The same list is found in the same statute, but in subsection (e) which allows the court to modify, revoke, or terminate a term of supervised release.

The court may, after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a)(1), (a)(2)(B), (a)(2)(C), (a)(2)(D), (a)(4), (a)(5), (a)(6), and (a)(7)—  terminate a term of supervised release and discharge the defendant released at any time after the expiration of one year of supervised release, pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure relating to the modification of probation, if it is satisfied that such action is warranted by the conduct of the defendant released and the interest of justice;” 18 U.S.C. §3583(e)(1).

So what are these factors? Paraphrased, these are:

  • §§(a)(1): The nature and circumstances of the offense;
  • §§(a)(2)(B): To afford deterrence to criminal conduct;
  • §§(a)(2)(C): To protect the public from future crimes;
  • §§(a)(2)(D): To provide education and job training, provide medical care or other correctional treatment;
  • §§(a)(4): The kinds of sentences available and ranges from the guidelines;
  • §§(a)(5): In line with relevant policy;
  • §§(a)(6): Avoiding unwarranted differences in sentence between similar defendants with similar conduct;
  • §§(a)(7): To provide restitution to any victims.

Notice that two factors are missing? The omitted factors are subsections (a)(2)(A) and (a)(3). The removal of these two factors was not done by accident. Both missing factors have significant impacts on the way supervised release is treated different than prison sentences. [The Full Text of these Sentencing Factors]

Put simply, removing subsection (a)(2)(A) means that the length of a term of supervised release has nothing to do with punishing the defendant, promoting respect for the law, or reflecting the seriousness of the crime. The same applies to early termination: the Court is prohibited from considering how serious the crime was, or the need to punish a defendant, when ruling on early termination requests.

For a deep look into the importance of these missing factors, reference Chapters 3 &7 of the Federal Probation Bible.

Some good news: A 2011 Supreme Court case called Tapia ruled that prison sentences couldn’t be used to promote rehabilitation, because that is what supervised release was reserved for. An amendment was then made to the Sentencing Guidelines Manual where the Sentencing Commission specifically encouraged judges grant early release from federal supervision in appropriate cases.

This is significant because it marked the first time in history that the Sentencing Commission encouraged early termination of supervision.

What this Means

Not since the 80’s has there been a better time to get released early from federal supervision. Whether on federal probation or federal supervised release, the Sentencing Commission now encourages longer terms of supervision to promote rehabilitation, but also promotes early release after that rehabilitation is done.

Get Started Today

To get started with your early termination documents now, contact us by e-mail or phone to get the process going. Its fast and easy!