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The Federal Docket

DOJ Ends Trump Administration’s Policy of Seeking the Harshest Charges, Sentences

The Department of Justice has issued a memo to federal prosecutors reversing the Trump DOJ’s policy directing prosecutors to seek the harshest charges and sentences possible under the law. Until a long-term policy is implemented, the DOJ is reverting to an Obama-era policy requiring prosecutors to treat charging decisions and sentencing positions as part of an “individualized assessment.”

What kinds of criminal charges can be brought against the Capitol Hill Rioters?

As the Government continues to identify suspects from the January 6 “Capitol Hill Riots,” we are starting to see what kinds of criminal charges are in play. While treason and advocating the overthrow of Government are not likely to appear in any indictments, rioters at the Capitol have significant exposure to charges like sedition, rebellion or insurrection, and felony trespassing on restricted buildings or grounds.

COVID-19 Relief Bill Contains “Protecting Lawful Streaming Act” Criminalizing Illegal Streaming

The most recent COVID-19 relief bill contained a new criminal law called the “Protecting Lawful Streaming Act.” The new law makes it a felony to host streams of copyrighted works without permission, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. While politicians have stressed that the law is only aimed at “commercial, for profit piracy services,” the text of the law is much broader, and would allow prosecutions of individuals and could be applied against those making “fair use” of copyrighted material.

Biden’s Pick for HHS Signals Aggressive Approach to Prosecuting Healthcare Fraud During COVID-19 Pandemic

President Biden has nominated Xavier Becerra, California’s Attorney General, to lead the Health and Human Services Department. Based on his experience as a prosecutor and the substantial stimulus money paid out to healthcare providers during COVID-19, legal observers are predicting an aggressive new approach in healthcare fraud enforcement by the government.

DOJ Memo to BOP: Inmates on home confinement must return to prison after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, the DOJ instructed the BOP that inmates currently on home confinement under the CARES Act will have to report back to prison once the COVID-19 emergency is over. The DOJ’s memo was issued by the Trump administration, and neither President Biden nor his nominee for Attorney General, Merrick Garland, have stated whether they will reverse that decision or require inmates on home confinement to go back to prison.

Due Process Protections Act Puts Prosecutors On Notice Regarding Disclosure Obligations under Brady v. Maryland

Recent legislation called the Due Process Protections Act amended Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Rule now requires district courts to issue orders at the initial appearance in every criminal case that reminds prosecutors of their obligations under Brady, lists potential consequences for violations, and sets deadlines for compliance.

Congress set to restore Pell grants for prisoners

As part of an upcoming spending and COVID-19 relief bill, elected officials have come to an agreement to restore federal Pell grants for prisoners seeking higher education.

Incoming Biden Administration Signals Increase of Criminal Prosecutions for Environmental Violations

The incoming Biden administration is expected to increase criminal prosecutions under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, as well as rollback prior administration directives that prioritized “compliance assistance” over seeking civil or criminal penalties. The Biden administration has also announced its intention to establish an Environmental and ClimateJustice Division to help the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resource Department investigate and prosecute violators of environmental laws and regulations.

Updated Compilation of Compassionate Release Grants

Updated September 27, 2021 – The Compilation has been updated to include cases involving inmates that have already been vaccinated or refuse to get vaccinated and cases where an inmate has been granted compassionate release while on home confinement. Attorney Tom Church has compiled a list of Compassionate Release grants and some of the key …

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SCOTUS Declines to Determine Fourth Amendment Standard For Border Searches, Leaving Circuit Split Intact

The U.S. Supreme Court denied ceriorari to a petitioner seeking the Court’s determination as to what standard applies to Fourth Amendment searches at the U.S. border. The Court’s decision not to step in leaves in place a circuit split between courts that hold no probable cause or reasonable suspicion is required for law enforcement to conduct searches and those that hold there must at least be some degree of reasonable suspicion.

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