How does Federal Supervised Release work?

Federal supervised release is a term of supervision that happens after a person completes his or her jail term. But it differs from parole and probation in several important ways.

For instance, parole allows a person to be released from jail early. In other words, the person is released before he or she completes the full jail term. If the individual breaks the parole terms, then the parole officer issues a “blue warrant” for that person’s arrest. And if the parole board revokes the person’s parole, then the he or she will go back to jail to complete the original jail term.

In probation cases, the individual does not go to jail. Instead, the judge orders him or her to report to a probation officer, attend classes, and do community service hours. If the person is successful, then he or she can avoid jail time altogether. However, if the person breaks the terms of probation, then he can go to jail for the original jail term.

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

How long does Federal Supervised Release last?

The period of supervised release will depend on the crime a person did. 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 including drug crimes, gun trafficking and gun possession crimes, and human smuggling crimes.

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 terms of supervised release. For instance, federal sex crimes may require a person to be on supervised release for life. For this reason, you should always check the law for each crime to see if it carries stiffer terms than the ones listed in the table above.

How much jail time will I get for breaking the terms of my supervised release?

The guidelines provide an estimate of how much jail time a person will get for breaking his or her supervised release. According to the table below, your jail term will depend on two facts.

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 jail term. To demonstrate, let’s see how courts use these two facts to figure out a the jail term.

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. The table shows a person’s likely 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 for each client is the point where both the vertical and horizontal axis meet.

For example, a person with a Grade C violation and a criminal history category of I will face between 3 to 9 month jail term. While a person with a Grade B violation and a Criminal History Category of VI will face between 21 to 27 months in jail. However, the final sentence will depend on the judge. This means it is also possible a judge can go above or below this guideline range.

“Get Off Paper.”

Many people breathe a sigh of relief after they are released from federal prison. At the same time, they are still not out of the woods. If they do not follow the terms of their federal supervised release, then they can face more jail time.

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

Finally, someone who breaks the terms of their federal supervised release will likely go back to jail. But even in these cases, that person has options. During the revocation hearing, he or she can ask the judge not to put them back on supervised release after they get out of jail. 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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