Monday, June 15, 2009

For Purposes of Supervised-Release Tolling Provision, "Imprisonment" Includes Pretrial Detention

United States v. Molina-Gazca, Nos. 08-50619, 08-50620 (5th Cir. June 11, 2009) (Jones, Elrod, Guirola, D.J.)

Prefatory disclosure: I did some work on this case.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(i), a district court does not have jurisdiction to revoke a term of supervised release after it expires, unless a warrant or summons issued before the expiration of the term. A separate statute, § 3624(e), provides that "[a] term of supervised release does not run during any period in which the person is imprisoned in connection with a conviction for a Federal, State, or local crime unless the imprisonment is for a period of less than 30 consecutive days." Given those provisions, and the following sequence of events, did the district court have jurisdiction to revoke Molina's terms of supervised release?
  • November 3, 2003: Molina commences serving two concurrent three-year terms of supervised release.
  • July 8, 2005: Molina is arrested in New Mexico and charged with several felonies. He is detained pending trial.
  • November 2, 2006: Molina's supervised release terms expire.
  • November 15, 2006: Molina is convicted of the state charges.
  • May 3, 2007: A revocation warrant issues, evidently in response to the United States' motion to revoke Molina's TSR. The motion relied on Molina's new conviction as the basis for revocation.
  • September 24, 2007: Molina is sentenced to 39 years' imprisonment, with credit for the time he served in pretrial custody.
  • At some point after that, the district court revoked both of Molina's terms of supervised release, and sentenced him to two concurrent terms of 15 months' imprisonment, to run consecutive to his state sentence.
Molina argued that "a conviction within the period of supervised release is necessary to trigger the tolling provision under § 3624(e)." The court disagreed, relying on the "unambiguous" text of the statute:
Congress could have elected to restrict the application of § 3624(e) in the manner Molina-Gazca suggests. For example, Congress could have limited tolling to periods of imprisonment in connection with a conviction that “occurs during supervised release.” However, § 3624(e) makes no distinction between pre-trial or postconviction periods of imprisonment, but instead requires that “any period” of imprisonment be “in connection with a conviction” for tolling to apply. The phrase “imprisoned in connection with a conviction” plainly lacks any temporal limitation.
This construction, Molina noted, could "leave[] a defendant in a state of 'jurisdictional limbo' while the district court waits to see if a conviction will actually occur." Despite acknowledging this possibility, the court nevertheless concluded that "[t]o the extent that Congress’s omission of a causal or temporal term results in uncertainty as to a defendant’s status, our role is not to imply those limits when Congress could have done so in the first instance."

Finally, Molina argued that detention and imprisonment are understood to be two different things, and that by using the term "imprisonment," § 3624(e) does not reach back to include a period of pretrial detention once a defendant is convicted and sentenced. The Ninth Circuit has so held, meaning that periods of pretrial detention are excluded from § 3624(e). The Sixth Circuit has held otherwise, concluding that the Ninth Circuit's interpretation would render the "in connection with" clause superfluous. The court here chose to follow the Sixth Circuit, pointing also to one statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3041, that "would seem to reject an imprisonment-detention distinction by providing that offenders may be 'arrested and imprisoned or released as provided in chapter 207 of this title ['Release and Detention of a Defendant Pending Judicial Proceedings'], as the case may be, for trial before such court of the United States as by law has cognizance of the offense.'"

Ultimately, the court held that "[p]retrial detention falls within 'any period in which the person is imprisoned' and tolls the period of supervised release, provided a conviction ultimately occurs. This plain meaning interpretation of § 3624(e) gives effect to all of its terms."

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home