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July 20, 2011

Quick circuit split on Tapia's impact for revocation of supervised release

I have been meaning to blog about an interesting First Circuit ruling earlier this month in US v. Molignaro, No. 10-1320 (1st Cir. July 6, 2011) (available here).  As revealed by the introductory paragraph quoted below, the First Circuit  in Molignaro (per retired Justice Souter sitting by designation) applied SCOTUS's recent ruling in Tapia to reverse a lengthened term of imprisonment intended to facilitate a defendant's rehabilitation upon revocation of his supervised release:

Acting under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e), the district court revoked the order for supervised release and resentenced the defendant.    Federal advisory sentencing guidelines recommended imprisonment of 3 to 9 months after such a violation, but the district court ordered 22 months (followed by further supervised release).   The court imposed the longer prison sentence so that Molignaro would have ample time to take part in a course of sex therapy at a nearby federal prison (Devens) that could run for up to 18 months, and although the judge did not state the period he would have imposed in the absence of the treatment program, he did say that 9 months would have been too short in light of what he found to be Molignaro's choices to go where children were present and the risk of untoward behavior was great.  Molignaro objected that setting the imprisonment term with the goal of providing therapy was error  as a matter of law, and that in any case 22 months was unreasonably long.  We hold that the resentencing court's objective of tailoring the length of imprisonment to provide adequate time for treatment was barred by statute, and we vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing.

I am finally now getting around to blogging about this interesting First Circuit ruling because yesterday a Fifth Circuit panel came out the other way on this issue in US v. Breland, No. 10-60610 (5th Cir. July 19, 2011) (available here).   Breland, which discusses Tapia but not Molignaro, starts this way: 

The question presented in this appeal is whether a district court may consider a defendant’s rehabilitative needs when revoking the defendant’s supervised release and requiring him to serve the remainder of his sentence in prison. The district court sentenced the defendant, William C. Breland Jr., to thirty-five months of imprisonment upon revocation of his supervised release.  On appeal, Breland challenges the procedural reasonableness of that sentence, arguing that the district court imposed it for the sole purpose of qualifying him for the Bureau of Prison’s (“BOP”) 500-hour drug-treatment program. He also challenges the substantive reasonableness of the sentence.  Because the plain language and operation of 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e) and (g), which governs post revocation sentencing, permits the consideration of rehabilitative needs, and because Breland’s sentence is not otherwise unreasonable, we affirm.

July 20, 2011 at 11:39 AM | Permalink

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