Monday, March 27, 2006

Revocation Proceedings Exempt from Jury Trial and Beyond-Reasonable-Doubt Protections of the Sixth Amendment

United States v. Rasheim Carlton, Docket No. 05-0974-cr (2d Cir. March 24, 2006) (Cardamone, Cabranes, Pooler): This opinion principally rejects an Apprendi and Blakely based Sixth Amendment challenge to the district court's decision to revoke Carlton's supervised release and resentence him to 25 months' imprisonment based solely on the court's own fact-finding, on a preponderance standard, that he committed a new crime. The outcome is hardly unexpected -- the Circuit has repeatedly refused to apply the Sixth Amendment implications of Apprendi, Blakely, and Booker to revocation proceedings in recent decisions. E.g., United States v. McNeil, 415 F.3d 273 (2d Cir. 2005).

The opinion is of interest only because it goes beyond citing precedent and attempts to offer a rationale for why the jury trial and beyond-a-reasonable-doubt protections do not apply at revocation proceedings. Indeed, the Circuit acknowledged that "some tension exists between § 3583(e)(3) (permitting judge to revoke on its own findings on preponderance standard) and Booker and its related cases," which bar the imposition of any punishment beyond that authorized by a jury's verdict (or the defendant's admissions). Op. 12; see id. 13 ("[T]he facts reflected in the jury verdict for Carlton's underlying offense could not possibly include those that formed the basis for his sentence for violating supervised release; a jury cannot find facts 'which the law makes essential to the punishment,' Blakely, 542 U.S. at 304, if those facts have not yet occurred.").

The tension is only apparent, however, because "a sentence of supervised release by its terms involves a surrender of certain constitutional rights and this includes surrender of the due process rights articulated in Apprendi and its progeny." Op. 14. The "constitutional rights afforded a defendant subject to revocation of supervised release for violation of its conditions are not co-extensive with those enjoyed by a suspect to whom the presumption of innocence attaches," the Court explained. Unlike the latter, a releasee possesses only "conditional liberty"; the "conditions placed on a defendant's liberty in supervised release encompass by implication the additional condition expressed in § 3583(e): that the defendant surrender his rights to trial by jury and to having accusations against him proved beyond a reasonable doubt." Op. 16.


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