Monday, January 10, 2022

Provisions of 21 USC 841 Control Maximum Supervised Release Terms for Drug Offenses

US v. Perez: Perez was serving a term of supervised release following his conviction for possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Upon revocation, the district court sentenced him to a term of imprisonment followed by a further 36-month term of supervised release. There was some dispute over whether that term exceeded the applicable statutory maximum. After an Anders brief and remand to the district court, the court again imposed the same sentence. 

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s new term of supervised release. At issue was the intersection of 21 U.S.C. 841, which sets out supervised release terms for drug offenses, and the general supervised release statute, 18 U.S.C. 3583. The former provide minimum terms of supervised release for drug offenses, but list no maximum – making the maximum authorized term life. The later restricts supervised release maximums based on the classification of the original offense. Prior to 2002, the Fourth Circuit had held that, in at least some instances, the 3583 maximums controlled over the 841 provisions. A Congressional amendment to 841, however, stated that those provisions applied “notwithstanding section 3583 of title 18.” As a result of the amendment, the court concluded that the provisions of 841 controlled and Perez could have received up to a lifetime of supervised release. Therefore, his 36-month term was not problematic.

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