Federal Criminal Lawyer BlogObservations On Notable Court Decisions, News And Developments Affecting Federal Criminal Practice

Articles Posted in Fifth Amendment

In late May, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from federal cases in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, decided U.S. v. Cunningham. The Court held that the federal statute that provides for revocation of supervised release is constitutional under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, despite its provision for reimprisonment of a criminal defendant based upon conduct that is not proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

The supervised release revocation statute is at 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3). It permits a district court to “revoke a term of supervised release, and require the defendant to serve in prison all or part of the term of supervised release” upon a finding “by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant violated a condition of supervised release.”

In 2000, in Apprendi v. New Jersey, the Supreme Court held that, other than prior convictions, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In 2004, the Supreme Court explained in Blakely v. Washington that the “statutory maximum” is the maximum sentence a judge may impose based upon the facts reflected in the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant.

The Eleventh Circuit distinguished the revocation of supervised release from Apprendi and Blakely. The Court reasoned that the defendant was already convicted of the underlying offenses and was granted only conditional liberty, depending upon his obeying the limits of his supervised release. In holding that a violation of supervised release need only be proven to a judge by a preponderance of the evidence, the Court joined six other circuits.

The Cunningham opinion is available here.

Last week, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits here in Atlanta, Georgia, issued its opinion in U.S. v. Garcia-Cordero. The Court held that the federal immigration law that requires persons transporting international passengers to “bring and present” those passengers to immigration officers does not violate the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination as applied to criminal defendants who smuggle aliens into the United States.

The federal immigration statute at 8 U.S.C. § 1324 criminalizes bringing illegal immigrants to the United States and provides an increased penalty for failure to “bring and present” the alien to an immigration officer at a designated port of entry. The Court held that, because the immigration laws are more regulatory than criminal, and because the statute applies to all persons transporting all aliens (rather than only those without prior authorization to enter,) the statute “does not target a highly selective group inherently suspect of criminal activities.” Thus, the statute is a part of a regulatory regime, against which the Fifth Amendment privilege may not be asserted.

The Court’s opinion is available here.