Stopping the Clock of Supervised Release Terms
By Brannock Furey, CLS ’20
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Mont v. United States, a supervised release case that turns on two seemingly minor details: the use of the present tense in a federal statute, and a period of 24 days.
Supervised release is designed to help monitor federal offenders after prison, and can result in reincarceration if any conditions set by the court are violated.At issue in Mont is whether a federal district court had jurisdiction to revoke an individual’s supervised release after the initial date on which his supervision was scheduled to end.Citing its decision in United States v. Goins as precedent, the 6th Circuit affirmed the district court’s determination that it could impose the revocation on March 30, despite the fact that the date on which his supervised release was set to expire––March 6––had passed three weeks prior.
As the 6th Circuit noted in Mont, however, a clear circuit split exists between the 6th Circuit’s decision in Goinsand the D.C. Circuit’s decision inUnited States v. Marshregarding the interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 3624(e), the provision that controls whether a term of supervised released may be suspended.This led to the Supreme Court granting cert.
In their briefs submitted to the Court, Mont’s attorneys and the government disagree as to how § 3624(e) should be construed––and, consequently, over when the clock for a supervised release term should stop and start.Section 3624(e) states that “supervised release does not run during any period in which the person is imprisoned in connection with a conviction for a Federal, State, or local crime unless the imprisonment is for a period of less than 30 consecutive days.”
Mont’s lawyers, citing to Marsh, argue that since the statute uses the present tense, the imprisonment must take place after a conviction in order for the tolling provision to apply.The government sharply contests this emphasis on the present-tense, and points to the phrase “in connection with” to support its argument that the provision can apply to imprisonment both before and after a conviction.
In contrast to Marsh, the government takes the 6th Circuit’s position in Goins.There, the appellate court held a defendant’s supervised-release period should pause during any pretrial detention for an indictment later resulting in a conviction, and where that incarceration was credited as time served.Since the state court credited Mont’s pretrial detention to his 6-year state prison term, the government argues that his incarceration should fall within § 3624(e), and that the federal court therefore had jurisdiction on March 30 due to the tolling of Mont’s supervised release in October 2016.
With more than 8 in 10 federal offenders undergoing supervised release after serving prison sentences, the Court’s decisions regarding the small distinctions at issue in Mont can have large implications for a great number of incarcerated individuals returning to society.
139 S.Ct. 451 (Mem), 202 L.Ed.2d 346.
Congressional Research Service, Supervised Release (Parole): An Overview of Federal Law, 1.
United States v. Mont, 723 Fed.Appx 325, 325 (6th Cir. 2018).
Id. at 326, 328-29 (citing United States v. Goins, 516 F.3d 416 (6th Cir. 2008)).
Id. at 330 (referring to United States v. Marsh, 829 F.3d 705 (D.C. Cir. 2016)).
Fiona Doherty, Argument preview: Justices address circuit split on whether a period of pretrial imprisonment can toll a term of federal supervised release, SCOTUSblog (Feb. 21, 2019, 12:19 PM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2019/02/argument-preview-justices-address-circuit-split-on-whether-a-period-of-pretrial-imprisonment-can-toll-a-term-of-federal-supervised-release/.
18 U.S.C. § 3624(e).
Doherty, supranote 9.
Mont, 723 Fed.Appx at 328 (citing Goins, 516 F.3d at 417).
Doherty, supranote 9.