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NACDL and its members have long pressed to fix the unjustly severe federal sentencing regime, advocating for much more sweeping changes than are included in the First Step Act. Although the law does not go nearly as far as NACDL would like, it will benefit many inmates and has important implications for practitioners.
Resources Related to Provisions of the First Step Act
for Federal Criminal Law Practitioners:
Risk and Needs Assessment System/Earned Time Credits (Title I) Good Time Credit Updates (Title I, Section 102) Sentencing Reform Provisions Under the First Step Act (Title IV) Compassionate Release (Title VI, Section 603)
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In these members-only webinars, leading experts examine the intricacies of the First Step Act from sentencing implications and risk assessments to expanded mechanisms for early release.
Available to the public: Everything You Wanted To Know About Federal Compassionate Release (But Didn’t Know To Ask)
Contact First Step Act Resource Center Counsel & Project Director Beth Blackwood for questions or support.
Pre-Trial Suppression & Fourth Amendment Issues
This Trial Guide is a topical and practical handbook examining the nuts and bolts of the most current Fourth Amendment & Pre-Trial Suppression issues encountered in modern criminal cases.
Defense Counsel Playbook for Eyewitness ID Cases
This Trial Guide was written to help counsel use existing case law to its strongest advantage, and to create a framework for appellate challenges urging courts to adopt leading cases.
Ultimate Cross 2.0
This special CLE compilation program includes the highest-rated presentations on Cross-Examination techniques from NACDL's most recent seminars (2017-2019).
Forensic Sciences in Criminal Cases: A Multidiscipline Primer
In order to challenge forensic evidence, experts, reports and findings commonly encountered in the courtroom, an attorney must first have a basic understanding of the forensic issues that they will be confronting.
Advocacy Supporting Implementation of the FIRST Step Act
- Comments with FAMM and JAN to BOP on Proposed First Step Act Earned Time Credits Rule (January 2021)
- Coalition Letter to Judiciary Committees on Equal Access to Compassionate Release (April 2020)
- Coalition Letter to Congressional Leadership on Elderly Home Detention in COVID-19 Aid (March 2020)
Amicus Briefs Filed by NACDL
Birt v. United States
Brief of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner.
Argument: Certiorari is warranted because the Third Circuit’s decision prohibits a whole class of crack-cocaine offenders from being eligible for resentencing under the First Step Act while identically situated defendants in other circuits may be resentenced. The Third Circuit’s rule is inconsistent with Congress’s goal of providing relief to low-level drug offenders because it excludes the lowest-level offenders and those with uncertain drug amounts from resentencing while allowing those who possessed greater amounts of crack cocaine to obtain relief. Defendants convicted for possessing lower-quantities of crack cocaine could receive substantial sentence reductions even though they remain eligible for the same sentence. The Third Circuit’s rule frustrates Congress’s goal of providing relief to the disproportionate number of Black Americans incarcerated for crack-cocaine offenses.
United States v. Raia
Brief of Amici Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and FAMM in Support of Defendant/Appellee’s Petition for Rehearing and/or Rehearing En Banc.
Argument: Appellee Raia’s Petition for Rehearing addresses the discretion of a district court to excuse the 30-day waiting period for compassionate release under the First Step Act, 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A). On April 2, 2020, the Panel declined to remand this case under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 12.1, stating that remand would be “futile.” In so ruling, the Panel necessarily concluded that the 30-day waiting period cannot be excused or waived. That conclusion was inconsistent with both Supreme Court and Circuit precedent. The ruling creates inconsistency in the Circuit’s treatment of all claims-processing rules, and undermines courts’ equitable authority in a wide range of cases. The30-day waiting period is a nonjurisdictional claims-processing rule. Courts may excuse noncompliance with that rule absent an express prohibition on doing so. Remand is therefore not “futile.” The Panel’s sua sponte conclusion to the contrary was error. Rehearing should be granted to correct the Panel’s error and confirm that judges are empowered to address “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances even when they arise exigently. At a minimum, the Panel should grant rehearing and order full briefing on this important issue, which was neither decided below nor fully briefed on appeal.
United States v. Bryant
Brief of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as Amicus Curiae in Support of Appellant Thomas Bryant, Jr., Supporting Reversal.
Argument: Sentencing courts have broad discretion to modify a sentence under Section 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). Sentencing courts have authority to grant motions for compassionate release if the defendant does not meet one of the "extraordinary and compelling reasons" described by the Commission. Vesting sentencing courts with discretion to identify "extraordinary and compelling reasons" is consistent with the judge's role at an initial sentencing and does not open any "floodgates." The District Court's order should be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.
- Compassionate Release: NACDL and Partners Launch the COVID-19 Compassionate Release Clearinghouse
- From the President: Compassionate Release: The Nuts and Bolts
A Basic Risk Assessment Toolbox: Aiming for Adequate Lawyering During the Spread of Risk Assessments
Risk assessment – the assessment of risk of reoffending or risk of future violent behavior – is a hot topic. However, only rarely do lawyers address the questions raised by criminal justice-related risk assessment. This finding suggests that defense lawyers may not be paying enough attention to the issue. A key issue involves addressing how the risk assessment connects the dots between a specific client’s circumstances and the factors related to reoffending and violence.
News Release ~ 04/06/2020
FAMM, Washington Lawyers’ Committee, NACDL Launch Emergency Compassionate Release Effort-- In a massive pro bono effort, our groups are recruiting, training, and supporting lawyers who agree to represent individuals in federal prisons eligible for compassionate release and those at special risk due to COVID-19.
News Release ~ 12/19/2019
Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar and Charles Koch Foundation Mark the One-Year Anniversary of the First Step Act with the NACDL First Step Act Resource Center -- Washington, DC (Dec. 19, 2019) – Saturday, December 21, marks the one-year anniversary of the signing into law of the First Step Act, a landmark bipartisan criminal justice reform measure. The Act was passed as a first step toward addressing the problems related to overcriminalization and overincarceration in the federal criminal justice system.
News Release ~ 09/11/2019
NACDL Voices Concerns about DOJ’s First Step Act Risk and Needs Assessment System -- Washington, DC (Sept. 11, 2019) – Yesterday, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) President Nina J. Ginsberg submitted to U.S. Attorney General William Barr NACDL’s comments on the Department of Justice’s First Step Act Risk and Needs Assessment System – PATTERN – published in July.