Banishment: Exile Permitted Under Current Georgia and Federal Criminal Law

July 24, 2009 by Kish & Lietz

Although exile seems like an archaic form of punishment, it is still occasionally used in criminal cases under both Georgia and federal law. This week In Cha Britto, the madam of a massage parlor in Macon, Georgia, pleaded guilty to two counts of keeping a place of prostitution. She received a two-year suspended jail sentence, a $2,000 fine, and banishment from Bibb County, Georgia. Britto has already moved to Atlanta.

Last year, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed a Georgia court’s banishment of Gregory Mac Terry from all of Georgia’s counties other than Toombs during ten years of probation following a twenty-year sentence. Toombs County is the home of Vidalia onions and the 0.2 square mile town of Santa Claus, Georgia. It is more than 200 miles from his home in Douglas County. Although his tentative parole date was last month, Terry is still incarcerated.

The Georgia Constitution explicitly bars banishment from the entire state, along with whipping. A 1912 book on Georgia’s constitution explained that the “paragraph was inserted in the Constitution to add banishment and whipping to the class … which the enlightened humanity of the present day regards as, in fact, cruel.” However, the Supreme Court of Georgia reasoned that allowing Terry to reside in Toombs County was permissible under the narrow language of the Constitutional provision because he could still reside in Toombs County. The court focused on the rationale for the banishment: Terry’s documented history of disobeying restraining orders and assaulting his ex-wife in Douglas County.

Certain Georgia counties use banishment as a form of punishment more often than others. The Bibb County prosecutor in Britto’s case said that it is not standard or routine there and that Britto is the first person she’s seen banished in her 15 years in the Solicitor’s Office. Houston County, however, has banished more than 500 defendants since 1998. Although Terry’s banishment is to only one rural county in the state, banishments since 2006 must be to a location no smaller than an entire judicial circuit.

Banishments are significantly less common in federal cases, but are allowable under 18 U.S.C. § 3563 (b), regarding conditions of probation that the court may impose. Just this March, the First Circuit (the federal court that hears appeals in criminal cases from various states in the Northeastern portion of the United States) affirmed a sentence in which the District Court had banished defendants from Suffolk County, Massachusetts during their probation.

Prison Reimbursement in the Georgia and Federal Criminal Justice Systems

July 23, 2009 by Kish & Lietz

Time Magazine reported yesterday that a New York legislator, James Tedisco, introduced a bill in that state that, if passed, would require wealthy inmates to pay for the cost of their prison stays. A similar bill failed to pass in Georgia this year and the federal criminal justice system already takes the costs of incarceration into account when determining fines at sentencing. Many states, including Florida and Alabama, have passed laws addressing inmate reimbursement of the costs of confinement.

The New York bill, nicknamed the “Madoff bill,” proposes a sliding scale based upon each inmate’s net worth. Those worth $200,000 and more will for their entire stay, estimated at around $90 per day. Those worth $40,000 or less will not have to pay. The proposed law would not affect homes, mortgage payments, and child support payments, although middle-class prisoners’ families would surely suffer.

Federal Prison Reimbursement

The bill’s namesake, Bernard Madoff, was prosecuted under federal law, which already provides for reimbursement of confinement costs, although it is not statutorily required. The current Federal Sentencing Guidelines advise federal judges to consider, among other things, “the expected costs to the government of any term of probation, or term of imprisonment and term of supervised release imposed” when determining the amounts of fines for defendants convicted of federal crimes. The courts impose fines in all cases, unless the defendants establish that they are unable to pay. In the Madoff case, no fine was imposed because all of Madoff’s assets will be put toward compensating victims.

Prior to 1997, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines instructed judges to “impose an additional fine amount that is at least sufficient to pay the costs to the government of any imprisonment, probation, or supervised release ordered.” The Sentencing Commission elected to dispense with that requirement following a circuit court split regarding whether such a fine may be imposed without imposition of any punitive fine. Recognizing that the section was rarely used by judges, the reimbursement factor was simply rolled into the punitive fine.

Georgia’s Attempt to Pass a Similar Law

Although New York’s Madoff bill is generating national headlines, legislators in Georgia introduced a similar bill in February to little fanfare. HB 295 would have established “The Jail and Prison Reimbursement Act,” requiring inmates to pay the state for medical costs incurred during detention, as well as per diem costs of incarceration. It never made it out of the State Institutions & Property Committee before the General Assembly adjourned in April.

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Raises Issue of Standing to Skirt the Rule of Specialty in Federal Criminal Extradition Case

July 14, 2009 by Kish & Lietz

Last week, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits here in Atlanta, Georgia, decided U.S. v. Valencia-Trujillo, a federal criminal case involving an extradition rule called the rule of specialty. The Court held that Mr. Valencia-Trujillo had not established that he had been extradited under Colombia’s treaty with the United States, rather than an extradition agreement between the countries, so he lacked standing to assert the rule of specialty. This decision makes little sense in the context of the rule.

The rule of specialty requires countries that request extradition of a person to prosecute that person only for the offenses for which the foreign country surrenders the person. In other words, if the United States asks Colombia to extradite someone for charges A, B, and C, once Columbia extradites that person, the United States can’t turn around and charge the person with X, Y, and Z. As the Court said in its opinion, “because the surrender of the defendant requires the cooperation of the surrendering state, preservation of the institution of extradition requires that the petitioning state live up to whatever promises it made in order to obtain extradition.” In other words, the rule of specialty ensures that other countries will trust the United States to adhere to the terms of extradition. Otherwise, they may not agree to send people back to the U.S. for trial.

The Court basically held that the United States need not honor promises that it makes in order to obtain extradition agreements. It came to that conclusion by relying on a prior case that viewed treaties as contracts between sovereign nations and the rule of specialty as a provision of the extradition contract. Because of that case, the Court said, “the rule of specialty is treaty-based.” The court then explained that while treaties become the law of this country, extradition agreements do not. The Court’s distinction between extradition pursuant to a treaty and extradition pursuant to an agreement flies in the face of the underlying purpose of the rule of specialty.

The Court’s opinion is available here.
“The Hell Bound Train,” a poem that the Court cited in its opinion, is available here.

New Federal Criminal Law Targets Internet Drug Sales

July 9, 2009 by Kish & Lietz

A new federal criminal law directed at online pharmacies went into effect in April. The lawyers at Kish & Lietz have represented many targets and potential targets of investigations and prosecutions involving these types of online pharmacies, as well as other drug prosecutions. Recent Internet drug sale laws may encompass more behavior than the primary reasons for their enactment.

The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act makes it illegal to distribute controlled substances that are prescription drugs over the Internet without a valid prescription or to advertise for such distribution. “Valid prescription” is defined as “a prescription that is issued for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice” by a practitioner who has evaluated the patient in person at least once or, if that practitioner is unavailable and has evaluated the patient in-person within the past year, then a practitioner whom he requests to evaluate the patient. The Act also permits states to sue online pharmacies and imposes registration and reporting requirements on certain online pharmacies.

The primary function of the Act is to address online pharmacies, which deliver controlled substances by means of the Internet. Its chief provisions amend 21 U.S.C. Section 841, a part of the Controlled Substances Act that lists illegal conduct and penalties. The new law is targeted at people and entities such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, and web site owners involved with online pharmacies that issue and fill prescriptions for controlled substances based solely on completion of online medical questionnaires. It is not expressly limited to online pharmacies, however, or to the types of targets listed. Federal prosecutors may use this law against anyone who delivers, distributes, or dispenses a controlled substance by means of the Internet, or helps someone do so, without authorization.

Related to this new law, in 2006 the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (other aspects of which we discussed in this previous post) created a separate federal criminal law prohibiting Internet sales of certain so-called date rape drugs. One section of the Act amended Section 841 to impose a maximum sentence of twenty years on anyone who knowingly uses the Internet to distribute a date rape drug, knowing or with reasonable cause to believe that the recipient is not an authorized purchaser or the drug will be used in the commission of criminal sexual conduct. The Act defines “date rape drug” to include gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and its analogues, including gamma butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4-butanediol (1,4 BD,) as well as flunitrazepam (Rohypnol or roofies) and ketamine. These drugs are also often used recreationally, but the intended use is irrelevant to the law if the person distributing the drugs through use of the Internet knows or has reasonable cause to believe the recipient is not an authorized purchaser.

In addition to these laws punishing behavior broader than their purposes, there appears to be a statutory inconsistency between the Act’s suggestion that GBL and 1,4 BD are ‘analogues’ of GHB and the definition of “controlled substance analogue” set forth in 21 U.S.C. Section 802(32). Under that section, to prove that any particular substance is an analogue to GHB, the Government must prove, among other things, that the substance at issue is “substantially similar” in chemical structure to GHB. Based on what our firm has learned from handling cases involving these substances, it appears that a scientific consensus does not exist on the question of whether GHB is substantially similar in chemical structure to GBL and 1,4 BD. It will be interesting to follow this Act and the manner in which federal courts interpret these seemingly inconsistent provisions. As Internet crimes evolve, we will continue to monitor developments in the law.

The text of the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act is available here.
The text of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is available here.
21 U.S.C. Section 841 is available here and 21 U.S.C. Section 802 is available here.

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Argument on Federal Criminal Honest Services Fraud

July 8, 2009 by Kish & Lietz

Last Monday, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Weyhrauch v. United States, a federal criminal honest services fraud case. We are in Atlanta, Georgia, which is in the Eleventh Circuit. Because this case may impact Eleventh Circuit law, we will follow this case closely and provide any updates.

The question to be decided in Weyhrauch is "Whether, to convict a state official for depriving the public of its right to the defendant's honest services through the non-disclosure of material information, in violation of the mail-fraud statute (18 U.S.C. Sec. 1341 and 1346), the government must prove that the defendant violated a disclosure duty imposed by state law."

The defendant in this case is a lawyer and was a member of the Alaska House of Representatives. He is accused of honest services fraud due to conflicts of interest in conducting business with an oil field services company. The government wanted to introduce evidence of his concealment of the conflicts of interest to support the fraud charges, even though the state did not require disclosure.

We have been disappointed in how far federal prosecutors have gone in stretching honest services fraud to cover an expansive range of conduct and we hope that the Supreme Court finally limits this statute. In her post at the White Collar Crime Prof Blog, Professor Pogdor quotes Justice Scalia’s stance:

This case presents another opportunity for Justice Scalia to use his words from the denial of cert in the Sorich case, where he stated that the "28 words" in the statute had "been invoked to impose criminal penalties upon a staggeringly broad swath of behaviour, including misconduct not only by public officials and employees but also by private employees and corporate fiduciaries."

He stated that "[w]ithout some coherence limiting principle to define what 'the intangible right to honest services" is, whence it derives, and how it is violated, this expansive phrase invites abuse by headline-grabbing prosecutors in pursuit of local officials, state legislators, and corporate CEOs who engage in any manner of unappealing or ethically questionable conduct." Justice Scalia concludes his dissent in Sorich by stating that "it seems to me quite irresponsible to let the current chaos prevail."

The Petition for Certiorari is available here.
The Brief in Opposition is available here.
The Petitioner's Reply is available here.

We are currently following another honest services fraud case, Black v. United States, that the Supreme Court agreed to hear back in May. Our posts about it can be found here and here. In that case, the Court will decide whether Section 1346 applies in a purely private setting where the defendant’s conduct did not risk any foreseeable harm to the putative victims.

Supreme Court Establishes New Federal Rule Regarding Criminal Forensic Lab Reports

July 6, 2009 by Kish & Lietz

A couple of weeks ago, the federal Supreme Court decided a criminal case, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, holding that the admission of crime lab reports requires the forensic analysts to testify in person. The Georgia Supreme Court adopted the same rule in 1996 for state criminal cases brought here in Georgia and we are pleased that it will now apply in federal criminal cases, as well as in other states that didn’t previously have the rule.

Justice Scalia, a strong defender of the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause, wrote the majority opinion in Melendez-Diaz. The basic idea of the Confrontation Clause is that people have the right to be confronted with witnesses against them so they have a chance to defend themselves against the charges. In Crawford v. Washington, the Court held that testimonial statements against a defendant are inadmissible unless the witness appears at trial or, if the witness is unavailable, the defendant has had a prior opportunity for cross-examination. In this case, Scalia explained that the crime lab reports were affidavits, which fall within the “core class of testimonial statements” covered by the Confrontation Clause and addressed in Crawford. For that reason, the analysts making the statements must appear at trial.

The dissent argued that forensic evidence is uniquely reliable compared to other types of testimony and that cross-examination of the analysts would be empty formalism. To most people who watch TV shows like CSI, this argument has merit – scientific evidence seems indisputable. But not all forensic analysts are as intelligent and well-educated as Gil Grissom. The Court noted that “[s]erious deficiencies have been found in the forensic evidence used in criminal trials… One study of cases in which exonerating evidence resulted in the overturning of criminal convictions concluded that invalid forensic testimony contributed to the convictions in 60% of the cases.” Confrontation will help assure accurate forensic analysis by weeding out both fraudulent and incompetent analysts.

The opinion in Melendez-Diaz is available here.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a related case, Briscoe v. Virginia. We will follow that case and update on it when it is decided. More information on that case can be found at the Confrontation Blog.