Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Flight Tolls Supervised Release Term

US v. Buchanan: Buchanan started his five-year term of supervised release in 1993. He was allowed to relocate to Ohio, but his supervision continued out of the Eastern District of Virginia. In 1994, he was indicted on state drug charges in Ohio. When his trial started in 1995, Buchanan was a no show. His probation officer in Virginia filed a petition to revoke Buchanan's supervised release and a warrant was issued. Years passed, until Buchanan was located and arrested in Georgia in 2008. After his arrest, the probation officer in Virginia filed two addenda to the petition to revoke. Buchanan moved to dismiss the addenda, as they were filed after his five-year term had expired. The district court held that the term was tolled while Buchanan was on the lam, revoked his supervised release, and sentenced him to concurrent sentences of 48, 36, and 27 months on the petition and two addenda.*

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court. The court noted that the supervised release statute does not address whether a term tolls while a supervisee is AWOL, if no petition/warrant is issued during the supervised release term. For the First Circuit, that means it does not toll. For the Ninth, it read into the statute a tolling mechanism in order to avoid providing supervisees with a reason to abscond. The Fourth Circuit followed the Ninth (I can't believe I actually wrote that!), holding that to do otherwise would foil congressional intent and reward absconders.

* This completely baffles me. In every supervised release case I've seen, there's only been one sentence per SR term, not one per violation (or batch of violations). Since Buchanan didn't challenge the initial petition, which was the basis of the 48-month term, the Fourth Circuit could have dismissed the appeal under the "concurrent sentence doctrine" but declined to do so.

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