Month: November 2018

Federal Prison Population Buildup Could Spell Early Release

Over the last three decades, the United States has quietly increased its federal prison population by unprecedented numbers. In fact, from 1980 to 2015, the inmate population skyrocketed from 25,000 inmates to roughly 205,000, growing an average of 5,900 inmates each year.

This increase is attributable to the elimination of parole, sweeping reform to Federal Criminal Code, making more state crimes also federal offenses, and the growing number of first-time offenses subject to mandatory minimum sentences.

Could growth both in state and federal prisons spell early release for some non-violent criminals? The answer resides somewhere between Congressional action, and the creation of programs aimed at lowering the recidivism rate.

Underlying Issues Contributing to Growth

Early indication from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must meet numerous challenges due to this increase in the inmate population.

According to GAO, BOP reports that:

  • Inmates at higher risk of committing violence in prison are being grouped with lower-risk victims in double and triple bunking arrangements;
  • The benefits drug and education programs can provide inmates are not being realized due to long waiting lists, which puts inmates on “idle” status. Extended idleness can threaten institutional security and lower recidivism rate;
  • Few meaningful work opportunities are also contributing to inmates remaining idle too long;
  • Overcrowded visiting rooms means some inmates are denied visitation, creating another threat to inmate and staff security; and
  • Inmates are outnumbering staff by larger numbers as each year grows, causing staff to work exhaustive hours. This also reduces inmate-staff communication, which is vital in deescalating threats to inmate security.

Federal prison overcrowding also taxes BOP’s infrastructure that, by design, is meant to control smaller prison populations. Also, as facilities age, maintenance intervals increase with it, driving up costs of building upkeep.

Options for the BOP

Expanding federal facilities seems like an easy fix to an age-old problem. However, there are more creative ways to address overcrowded prisons other than creating more room to lock people up.

The BOP has reported long-term success with cognitive-behavioral programs, community-based drug treatment programs, and vocational programs designed to prepare inmates for work upon release. These programs are viable options for prisons facing high recidivism, but fail to address the bevy of new inmates entering the system for low-level charges.

Private prisons are another option Congress is kicking around, although these for-profit lockups are more likely to offer less reform since these private companies are incentivized to keep inmates longer.

One possible option could be increasing the credit-time given to inmates with lower security levels, or putting these inmates on electronic monitoring when they are within 90 days of release. Reworking the Federal Criminal Code to lessen sentences may also be an option worth exploring, although getting bipartisan support may require more work than it is worth.

Using probation or other alternative sentences more frequently could also reduce BOP strain, even if that means increasing the frequency with which defendants visit their probation officer.

Overpopulation is the Oldest Conversation Topic

People are talking about state and federal prison overpopulation every year, although little is done to curb increases. Helpful programs are there, as are alternative sentences. It is up to judges, prosecutors, and criminal defense attorneys to come to an agreement so first-time offenders can correct their actions and avoid reoffending.

It is unknown how many low-level inmates are battered, or killed, each year. What is known is that prison overcrowding must be addressed before the staff-to-inmate ratio spirals out of control, making federal correctional facilities the least likely place to reform an offender’s actions.

Facing federal charges? James E. Blatt fights cases to get them dismissed. Based on his past case results, persons facing serious jail time continue retaining him for his superior level of representation.


Appealing DUI Convictions in California

Being charged with and then sentenced for DUI ends the prosecution’s case – at least in their eyes. Sometimes, however, the trial court gets things wrong. In other cases, the state steps outside its legal limitations to sentence or convict you.

When certain parts of your DUI conviction do not add up, or numerous procedural errors exist, offenders are within their constitutional rights to appeal their sentencing. It is the duty of your trial lawyer, or perhaps another you retain, to handle the appeals process. This quick guide shows how that process may work in California.

Sentencing Appeals

Hiring an experienced, well-versed and highly aggressive DUI attorney for your appeal goes without saying, especially since writing the Supreme Court of California takes specific lingo, case law references, and understanding of DUI laws.

Upon receiving all court case notes, all police reports and everything else from your original case, your attorney will look for.

  • Legal mistakes which, if taken to trial, could have affected the outcome
  • Typographical errors missed by court clerk when filing the final sentencing order
  • Misinformation that led presiding judge towards inaccurate sentencing
  • Failing to follow Supreme Court regulated sentencing guidelines

Appeals Process

DUI attorneys have tight time constraints, which means doing your part, when asked, will speed up the process. Here are the steps (not in any order) that will occur during your DUI appeal:

  • Attorney will file notice in open court that you are appealing the final outcome, which will generally happen shortly after you have been sentenced.
  • Then, attorney will gather your record of proceedings from the clerk, otherwise called a transcript. Anything else relevant to your appeal will also be levied in this examination.
  • After carefully reviewing all information and finding enough errors to contest, your DUI attorney will prepare a written brief, or detailed statement which merits your sentencing getting overturned.
  • DA will file their written brief in rebuttal, stating why your sentencing should be upheld.
  • Once Supreme Court has all literature, judge(s) will convene to settle your case for good.

After this process is complete, the Supreme Court will come back with two decisions based off their findings, historic cases similar to yours and common law. Those are:

  • Sentence affirmed. This means that nothing was discovered to be erroneous, and your current sentence stands. This decision is usually firm, and not appealed again.
  • Sentence remanded to trial court. This means enough erroneous information in your DUI sentencing hearing, or throughout the entire process, was found and the case – or parts of your sentence – are remanded to trial court (original court) where judge must provide an ethical, legal, and wise outcome. It can not be identical to the current one. It is possible that judges make mistakes, which opens doors for the appeals process to begin again.

Appeals making their way up through the system have taken years to finalize, which means the sense of urgency in hiring your current DUI attorney, or at least on with knowledge of DUI appeals, is vital.  Rarely have defendants on their own written appeals in California which were decided favorably.

Choose wisely when something important like appealing convictions could erase your record, lighten your sentence, or provide relief from excess fees.

Need to appeal your conviction of DUI? James E. Blatt works hard to get cases dismissed for procedural error. Contact a superior Los Angeles DUI defense attorney today.