What is Federal Supervised Release?

Federal supervised release is a period of government supervision that happens after a defendant completes the bulk of his or her prison term. Supervised release is designed to help defendants rehabilitate after they are released from federal prison. But it differs from parole and probation in several important ways.

For instance, parole allows a defendant to be released from jail early. In other words, the prisoner is released before he or she completes the full prison term. If the defendant violates the terms of his parole, then authorities issue a “blue warrant” for that person’s arrest. And if the parole board revokes the defendant’s parole, then the defendant will go back to jail to complete the original prison sentence.

In probation cases, the defendant does not go to jail. Instead, the judge orders a defendant to report to a probation officer, attend classes, and perform community service hours. If the defendant is successful, then he or she can avoid jail time altogether. However, if the defendant violates probation, then he can go to jail for the original prison term.

In short, federal supervised release combines the worst parts of both parole and probation. First, the defendant completes the majority of his prison term. Then, he must report to a federal probation officer. If the defendant violates the terms of his supervised release, then he can go to jail for an additional prison term.

How long will I be on Federal Supervised Release?

The period of supervised release will depend on the crime the defendant committed. The table below outlines the maximum periods of supervised release under 18 USC § 3583(b). This law applies to the majority of federal criminal cases.

Felony TypeMaximum Term of Supervised Release
Class A or Class B felonyNot more than five years
Class C or Class D felonyNot more than three years
Class E felony, or for a misdemeanor (other than a petty offense)Not more than one year.

However, be aware that some crimes carry longer periods of supervised release. For instance, federal sex crimes may require a defendant to be on supervised release for life. For this reason, you should always check the statute of conviction to see if it carries stiffer terms than the ones listed in the table above.

What are federal supervised release guidelines?

Federal supervised release guidelines provide an estimate of how much jail time a person will face for a supervised release violation. According to the guidelines, your prison term will depend on two factors.

First, the grade or type of violation will matter. There are three types of grade violations. They are Grade A, B, and C. Grade A violations are the most serious. While Grade C violations are the least severe. Second, your criminal history score will affect your prison term. Now let’s see how these two factors are used to calculate a federal supervised release guideline range.

Federal Supervised Release Revocation Table
The revocation table illustrates the guideline ranges for federal supervised release violations.

The United States Sentencing Commission created the table above. It is the table judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and defense attorneys use to determine a client’s expected revocation jail term. Specifically, the vertical axis lists the Grade or type of violation. The horizontal axis lists the client’s criminal history category. The guideline ranges are in blue. The range is the point where both the vertical and horizontal axis meet.

For example, a Grade C violation with a criminal history category of I leads to a 3-9 month jail term. While a Grade B violation with a Criminal History Category of VI leads to a projected guideline range of 21-27 months in jail. However, the final sentence will depend on the judge.

“Get Off Paper.”

Many people understandably breathe a sigh of relief after they are released from federal prison. At the same time, they are still not out of the legal woods. If they commit a federal supervised release violation, they can face additional jail time.

Moreover, the trick to federal supervised release is for clients to “get off paper” as soon as possible. In many cases, defendants maybe eligible for early termination of their federal supervised release. In particular, defendants can ask their probation officer to make an early termination request with the judge. Or, the defendant can hire an attorney to make this request also.

Finally, in many cases, defendants who violate their federal supervised release will likely go back to jail. But even in these circumstances, a defendant has options. During the revocation hearing, he or she can ask the judge not to add an additional term of supervised release. This allows the clients to complete their jail terms and get on with their lives. And that’s the bottom line–to get off paper and put the case behind you.

Law Office of Genaro R. Cortez, P.L.L.C.

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