Monday, January 23, 2012

Revocation of supervised release not equal to termination of the release

US v. Winfield:  A supervised release revocation sentencing here occurred over the course of two bifurcated hearings, the first part of which occurred in May 2010 dealing with the technical violations (i.e., charges not related to the commission of some state offenses during the appellant’s supervised release), and the second occurred in September 2010, following the resolution of the appellant’s substantive violations in state court.

At the May 2010 hearing, the district court imposed a 12-month sentence on Winfield for his technical violations, e.g. failing to follow his probation officer’s instructions, failing to work regularly, and twice testing positive for cocaine. Winfield’s probation officer had filed a petition for violations of the terms of Winfield’s supervised release in October 2009 on the technical violation behavior. The probation officer subsequently filed two amended petitions for revocation, the first for receiving a state court charge while he was on supervised release, and the second for failing to inform the probation officer of his arrest for the state court charge within 72 hours of his arrest. In the September 2010 hearing, the district court imposed a second 12-month sentence on the substantive violations, the state court convictions, for crimes committed while Winfield was on federal supervised release.

At issue is the definition of the term "revoke" under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e) and whether an effective revocation of a term of supervised release also ends the court’s supervision over that release when the term has not yet expired. Based upon an unpublished 3rd Circuit case from 2007 and Supreme Court precedent, the Fourth Circuit here determined that because a revoked term of supervised release continues to have some effect post-revocation, a district court retains authority to alter a defendant’s punishment during a re-incarceration for supervised release violations. Moreover, a revocation of a term of supervised release, according to the Fourth Circuit, is not equivalent to a termination of the release and the revoked term remains in effect. Thus, a district court may hold bifurcated hearings based on a petition for revocation filed prior to the expiration of the term of supervised release, provided the individual is sentenced according to the Rules of Criminal Procedure, the court makes a finding of guilt by a preponderance of the evidence, and does not exceed the statutory maximum for re-incarceration.

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