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Can COVID-19 Be Used to Shorten a Sentence?

July 29, 2020

Your attorney may file a writ of habeas corpus to ask for you to be released.

The novel coronavirus has affected all of us in any number of ways. You or a loved one may have gotten sick, lost your job, had a family member or friend die, or had to work while your kids are home from school because of this pandemic. It has also impacted the way that the criminal justice system works.

While there is still much that is unknown about COVID-19, we do know that transmission is often airborne — through tiny droplets that you expel as you breathe, cough, sneeze, or simply talk. For this reason, the infection tends to spread rapidly when people are in close quarters, whether that is in a factory, at a nursing home, in dormitories — or in a jail or prison. In California, there have been multiple outbreaks in the penal system already. As the virus continues to spread, it is likely to affect more individuals in jails and prisons throughout the state.

If you are currently incarcerated, you may be able to use this fact to have your sentence shortened. Attorney Dan E. Chambers explains in this video how you may be able to have your sentenced reduced — and secure early release — based on the pandemic.

The most common method of doing this is through a writ of habeas corpus. This is a legal document that anyone who is incarcerated may file with the court to challenge their imprisonment. As a criminal attorney in Rancho Cucamonga, CA can explain, there are three requirements that must be met before a writ can be filed. You must be in custody, have exhausted other remedies (options), and the petition must be based on issues that have not already been considered and resolved on appeal.

While there are a number of grounds on which you can file a writ of habeas corpus (such as prosecutorial misconduct), for COVID-19, the basis will be the conditions of confinement. In other words, it is simply unsafe for you to be incarcerated. Typically, this type of argument is grounded in poor prison conditions, such as overcrowding, lack or proper sanitation, or abusive guards. Here, your criminal attorney in Rancho Cucamonga, CA will base the writ on the coronavirus.

Because all inmates within the California penal system are subject to the same risk, you must have a particular reason that the virus is dangerous for you. Your lawyer will examine your medical records to look for any conditions that may make you more susceptible to coronavirus. The court will consider your medical history, as well as other factors, such as what you are in custody for, whether you have a prior record, and the length of your sentence. For example, if you have been sentenced to 30 years in California state prison for murder, and are 4 years into the sentence, it is less likely that you will be released. However, if you are 4 years into a 7 year sentence for drugs, then a judge may be more likely to shorten your sentence.

If you want to explore the possibility of requesting a shorter sentence based on COVID-19, the Chambers Law Firm can help. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.

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