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How to Determine if You’re Eligible for a Reduced Sentence Under Amendment 821

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

How to Determine if You’re Eligible for a Reduced Sentence Under Amendment 821

Hey there! If you or a loved one is currently serving time in prison, you may have heard about Amendment 821 and wondered if it could help reduce your sentence. This amendment makes some big changes to sentencing laws, so lots of folks are hoping it could get them out of prison sooner. I totally get that! Prison is rough and you just want your freedom back. In this article, I’ll walk you through exactly how to figure out if you qualify for a reduced sentence under Amendment 821. I’m not a lawyer, but I’ll do my best to break it down in simple terms.

What is Amendment 821?

First, let’s talk about what Amendment 821 actually is. This amendment was passed by voters back in November 2022. It made 3 big changes to sentencing laws in our state:

  1. It reduced mandatory minimum sentences for some drug and property crimes. So if you got a long mandatory minimum sentence for one of those crimes, you may now be eligible for a shorter sentence.
  2. It allowed people convicted of certain crimes committed as juveniles to apply for a review of their sentence after 15 years. If the crime happened when you were under 18, you may be able to get a shorter sentence.
  3. It expanded eligibility for parole to more people, including some with life sentences. So even if you have a life sentence, you may now be able to get parole.

The goal was to reduce prison populations and give people a second chance. But not everyone qualifies automatically – you have to meet certain criteria. Let’s break it down.

Check if Your Crime Qualifies

The first thing to look at is what crime you were convicted of. Amendment 821 only applies to certain drug, property, and juvenile crimes. The specific charges that qualify are:

  • Possession, use, or distribution of illegal drugs
  • Burglary and theft crimes
  • Robbery or carjacking without serious injury
  • Any crime committed before age 18 (excluding murder)

So if you weren’t convicted of one of those charges, unfortunately Amendment 821 won’t help you. You have to have one of the qualifying charges to get a reduced sentence.

See If You Got a Mandatory Minimum Sentence

Ok, if you do have a qualifying charge, the next thing to look at is your sentence. Specifically, you need to have been given a mandatory minimum sentence. What’s that mean? Well, for some crimes judges are required by law to give a certain minimum number of years. Like “5 years mandatory minimum” for robbery. Amendment 821 reduced some of those mandatory minimums. So if you got sentenced to a mandatory minimum for a qualifying crime, you may now be eligible for a shorter sentence than what the judge originally gave you.

Check How Much Time You’ve Served

Now this part’s important – even if your crime and sentence qualify, you likely have to have served a certain amount of your sentence already. The time served requirements are:

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2024-02-24
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  • For drug crimes – you must have served 15 years if your sentence was over 25 years, or 10 years if your sentence was 25 years or less
  • For property crimes – you must have served 15 years if your sentence was over 20 years, or 10 years if your sentence was 20 years or less

So basically you have to be about halfway through your sentence before you can get it reduced under Amendment 821. This wasn’t meant to let people off right away – you do have to serve a good chunk of time first.

File a Petition with the Courts

Alright, if your crime, sentence, and time served all qualify based on what I just explained, then you can go ahead and file a petition with the courts to request a reduced sentence. The petition basically says “Hey judge, my case meets all the requirements for Amendment 821, so please lower my sentence.”

You’ll have to fill out some legal forms – I’ll link to them below. Make sure to be detailed and clearly explain how you meet each requirement. Submit copies of your charges, sentencing documents, time served proof, and anything else that supports your case.

The court will review your petition and decide whether to lower your sentence or not. There’s no guarantee they’ll say yes, but if you clearly qualify then you have a good shot.

Be Patient – This Will Take Time

One more heads up – even if you do qualify and file a petition, don’t expect your sentence to get lowered overnight. The courts have been flooded with petitions since Amendment 821 passed. It could take many months for them to review your case and make a decision. So you’ll need to be patient as the wheels of justice turn slowly. But it will be worth it!

Get Some Legal Help

I’d also recommend having a lawyer help with your petition if possible. The law can be tricky and having a professional who understands all the ins and outs will really help your chances. If you can’t afford a lawyer, some legal aid organizations may be able to assist you pro bono (for free). I’ll link to some resources below.

Well, I hope this breakdown helps explain exactly how to determine if you qualify for a reduced sentence under Amendment 821. Let me know if you have any other questions! And best of luck – I really hope you get that second chance you deserve.

Helpful Links:

Amendment 821 Full Text

Sentence Reduction Petition Forms

Legal Aid for Prisoners

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