For those who have been charged with crimes or are currently in federal prison, the First Step Act could make their lives easier. Individuals who have homes or family members in New York would be required to be incarcerated within 500 miles of those homes or loved ones. In some cases, it could result in a person being set free or having his or her sentences reduced. Those who are facing life sentences under a "three-strike" rule would now only serve 25 years.
However, it is important to note that people who have already been convicted would not have their sentences reduced or altered. An exception would be for those who were convicted of crack offenses prior to 2010, when Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act. Supporters of the First Step Act say that this would help reduce the racial disparity in the justice system.
If the First Step Act is passed, it would allow for better enforcement of current prison rules, such as how pregnant women are treated while in custody. It would also call for greater use of halfway houses and home detention as an alternative to keeping people in prisons. Those who are elderly or terminally ill may also be granted a greater opportunity to be released for compassionate reasons. These steps could save the government money and ease overcrowding at the same time.
Whether a person is facing a misdemeanor or felony charge, it may be a good idea to retain the services of a lawyer. Doing so may make it possible to create a defense against the charge. Criminal defenses may include contending that there is a lack of credible evidence or that it was collected illegally. An attorney may also contend that witnesses incorrectly remembered what happened when testifying at trial or are generally not credible.