Mont v. United States

Issues 

If an individual on supervised release commits another crime and is detained while awaiting trial, should that detention period be credited toward his term of supervised release?

Oral argument: 
February 26, 2019

This case asks the Supreme Court to interpret 18 U.S.C. § 3624(e) (“Section 3624(e)”), which provides that a defendant’s term of supervised release is tolled when the defendant is convicted of a crime. Jason Mont contends that his pretrial detention from an unrelated crime did not toll his supervised release. Instead, he claims that his supervised release expired during his pretrial detention period, and thus that the district court did not have proper jurisdiction over his case. The United States, on the other hand, argues that confinement in the form of pretrial detention is equivalent to a conviction for purposes of Section 3624(e), and that the statute tolls a defendant’s term of supervised release to avoid allowing a defendant to serve his term of supervised release while imprisoned. The outcome of this case has implications for understanding the connection between conviction, pretrial detention, and when a defendant’s supervised release is tolled.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether a statute directed to the administration of imprisoned individuals serves as authority to alter or suspend the running of a criminal sentence of supervised release, when such "tolling'' is without judicial action, and requires the term "imprisonment" as used in the administrative statute, to include pretrial detention prior to an adjudication of guilt. Is a district court required to exercise its jurisdiction in order to suspend the running of a supervised release sentence as directed under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(i) prior to expiration of the term of supervised release, when a supervised releasee is in pretrial detention, or does 18 U.S.C. § 3624(e) toll the running of supervised release while in pretrial detention?

Facts 

In December 2005, Jason Mont was convicted for possessing cocaine with intent to distribute and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Mont was sentenced to ten years in prison, with five years of supervised release to follow. He was released from prison in March 2012, which started the clock for his five years of supervised release. In March 2015, Mont was indicted for marijuana trafficking. A state court jury trial was scheduled for March 2016. In January 2016, Mont’s probation officer reported to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio that Mont tested positive in one drug test and tried to cheat in two subsequent drug tests. Because of Mont’s upcoming marijuana trial, the district court did not issue a warrant for Mont’s arrest. Instead, the district court set a supervised-release-violation hearing for November 2016 and asked to be kept updated on the status of Mont’s upcoming trial. Before he was arrested and jailed again in June 2016 for cocaine trafficking, Mont’s marijuana trial was postponed. Then, in October 2016, Mont pled guilty to the marijuana and cocaine trafficking charges in exchange for a six-year sentence. . Following several delays, on March 21, 2017, Mont was sentenced to six years of imprisonment. –. However, because Mont had already been imprisoned since June 2016, the Mahoning County Court credited him ten months for time served. On March 30, 2017, after Mont’s probation officer updated the district court on Mont’s marijuana and cocaine convictions, the district court issued a warrant and scheduled a supervised-release-violation hearing for June 28, 2017. Mont’s attorney argued that, because Mont’s period of supervised release for his 2005 conviction had already expired on March 6, 2017, the district court no longer had jurisdiction to punish Mont for any supervised release violations. The district court rejected this argument, explaining that it set a timely date for a hearing in November of 2016, but that Mont’s actions delayed the hearing beyond the original expiration date of March 6, 2017. The district court then sentenced Mont to three and a half years in prison, to be served after completing the six-year sentence that he had already received for his marijuana and cocaine convictions. Mont appealed the issue of the district court’s jurisdiction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The Court of Appeals held that the district court did have jurisdiction over Mont in June 2017. The Court of Appeals explained that 18 U.S.C. § 3583(i) (“Section 3583(i)”) allows for an extension of the supervised release if a court issues a warrant on the basis of a violation of the supervised release’s conditions, which did not happen here. The Court of Appeals also noted, however, that 18 U.S.C. § 3624(e) (“Section 3624(e)”) can pause the term of supervised release during the time that an individual is imprisoned for another crime. This pausing mechanism means that the clock for a term of supervised release stops ticking if the defendant is imprisoned after an indictment, so long as the indictment resulted in a conviction and the time of imprisonment was credited as time served for the conviction. Mont’s case meets both of these conditions, meaning that his period of supervised release extended into June 2017. The Court of Appeals therefore affirmed the district’s court’s decision.

Mont petitioned for a writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court of the United States granted on November 2, 2018.

Analysis 

WHETHER PRETRIAL DETENTION IS THE EQUIVALENT OF IMPRISONMENT

Jason Mont warns that the Sixth Circuit’s three-part analysis—examining (1) whether a defendant’s detention resulted in conviction, (2) whether his imprisonment was greater than thirty days, and whether pretrial detention was counted for a later conviction—is too cumbersome for courts to implement successfully. Mont further asserts that Congress already decided that pretrial detention is not the same as imprisonment in the Bail Reform Act. . According to Mont, this statute explains that the goal of pretrial detention was to ensure that the defendant is present at trial. Mont points out that this is distinct from the purpose of imprisonment after a conviction, which aims to punish and rehabilitate the defendant. Similarly, Mont disputes the United States’ reliance on the various definitions of “imprison” found in Webster’s Dictionary. Instead, Mont contends that appropriate statutory interpretation requires understanding the context in which a specific word is used, and that statutory language must be understood in relation to the statute’s purpose. Thus, Mont criticizes the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation of the term “in connection with” to equate pretrial detention with conviction because the plain meaning of that phrase suggests that the statute refers to imprisonment for violation of supervised release, not pretrial detention. Mont emphasizes that any interpretation equating pretrial detention with incarceration would demand a convoluted examination of the charges, sentence, and other relevant factors that weigh against the defendant’s interest.

The United States responds that Mont’s pretrial detention amounts to “imprisonment in connection with a conviction for a Federal, State, or local crime,” and that this imprisonment tolled the supervised release term that followed Mont’s guilty plea and drug conviction. The United States emphasizes that according to Section 3624(e), a supervised release term is tolled when a defendant is convicted, unless the imprisonment lasts less than thirty consecutive days. Moreover, the United States points out that any pretrial confinement later credited for a sentence of imprisonment is treated as imprisonment. Thus, the United States posits that the term “imprisoned” refers to any period of time during which a defendant is confined in prison without regard to timing or purpose of the confinement, and that this definition includes pretrial detention. The United States therefore argues that a defendant who has been sentenced to imprisonment and credited for time served in confinement has already served a “conviction for a Federal, State, or local crime” The United States asserts that if Congress wanted to remove pretrial incarceration from the scope of incarceration, it would have included express language indicating that it applies only when a term of imprisonment results from a conviction. Given that Congress made no such revision, the United States maintains that there is no connection between conviction and imprisonment for the statute to apply.

INTERPRETING THE STATUTORY LANGUAGE

Mont argues that Section § 3624(e) tolls a defendant’s supervised release term only when the defendant is imprisoned following a conviction for a federal, state, or municipal crime. Mont explains that the plain meaning of Section 3624(e) supports this conclusion because the statute requires a defendant to be imprisoned following a criminal conviction, and as a result, pretrial detention is exempt because it occurs before a defendant is found guilty. Mont contends that the language of the statute, and in particular the use of present tense, demonstrates Congress’ intent to toll a supervised release term when a defendant is “imprisoned in connection with a conviction for a Federal, State, or local crime . . . .” Mont further asserts that the use of present tense in Section 3624(e) excludes any past actions that might be the cause of a pretrial detention. Thus, Mont posits that Congress intended for the supervised release term to begin when the defendant is released from prison, and to run parallel to other forms of supervised release stemming from unrelated offenses. As such, Mont maintains that pretrial detention does not toll the supervised release term under Section 3624(e) unless the defendant is convicted and imprisoned. Mont relies on prior case law from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to underscore that pretrial detention does not toll the supervised release term according to Section 3624(e). Mont therefore concludes that Congress only accounted for future acts when it drafted the statute.

On the other hand, the United States explains that Mont’s interpretation of Section 3624(e) is flawed because Congress did not intend for a defendant to satisfy his term of imprisonment and supervised release at the same time. According to the United States, Congress intended that any form of imprisonment related to a prior conviction tolls the term of supervised release, including pretrial detention or credit for time served. The United States further contends that the use of the present tense does not support the notion that supervised release is not tolled until there is a conviction. In this vein, the United States asserts that under the Dictionary Act, congressional statutes using the present tense should be interpreted to include future and present tenses. Thus, the United States notes that Section 3624(e) tolls the term of supervised release when there is a conviction in the present or at a pending future date.The United States further observes that Congress has used the present tense in an expansive fashion in other statutes with respect to tolling provisions. Finally, the United States cautions that supervised release is not possible when a defendant is concurrently imprisoned given that several violations of a supervised release term, including the failure to attend meetings with a parole officer or to find employment do not qualify as infringements while the defendant is imprisoned.

THE DISTRICT COURT DID NOT HAVE JURISDICTION

Mont contends that the district court was without jurisdiction to toll his term of supervised release because it failed to issue a summons or warrant before the term expired. Mont affirms that the district court can only exercise jurisdiction pursuant to Section 3583(i) when a warrant or summons is filed. Because the district court did not take either of these actions, Mont maintains that the district court has no jurisdiction in this case. In fact, Mont points out that the district court only issued a summons twenty-three days after the term of supervised release expired.

In contrast, the United States asserts that the district court had jurisdiction because Mont’s term of supervised release did not expire. The United States explains that Section 3624(e) tolls a term of supervised release when a defendant is confined for an offense that is credited as time served. Hence, the United States argues that Mont’s supervised release was tolled from June 1, 2016 when he was imprisoned due to a drug-trafficking conviction, until he was released from prison. It follows, according to the United States, that his supervised release had not yet expired when the district court ruled on his case.

Discussion 

THE PURPOSE OF SUPERVISED RELEASE

Mont argues that Congress did not intend to equate pretrial detention with imprisonment for conviction. Mont explains that while pretrial detention’s main purpose is to ensure public safety and the defendant’s presence at his or her upcoming court proceedings, the rationale of imprisonment for conviction is punishment and rehabilitation. For this reason, Mont argues that treating the two types of detainment as identical would be contrary to the congressional intent. Mont also notes that pretrial detention makes supervision easier for law enforcement, and thus should not be considered as negatively impacting the probation officer’s ability to fulfill his duty. Indeed, Mont claims, if the goal of supervised release is to ensure that an individual is being supervised, then that goal is only furthered in the event of a pretrial detention.

The United States responds that Congress intended for supervised release to help individuals transition and readjust to society. The United States contends that tolling the supervised release during the time that an individual is detained for another crime goes against this logic. The United States further explains that if an individual is imprisoned during the time he or she is supposed to be readjusting to society, then that individual is not benefiting from the transition period. Even though an individual can still be monitored during pretrial detention, the United States notes that this is not the equivalent of the surveillance the supervised release system contemplates, because it does not allow the individual to circulate in society. The United States stresses that individuals on supervised release have important responsibilities that include seeking employment and supporting their families. According to the United States, these tasks cannot be fulfilled if the individual is held in pretrial detention. Additionally, the United States contends that an individual in pretrial detention can comply more easily with certain conditions of their supervised release (such as refraining from using or possessing drugs) but only as a result of their detainment rather than their rehabilitation. Finally, the United States explains that Mont’s interpretation of Section 3624(e) is flawed because it would lead to a situation where a defendant could satisfy both their term of imprisonment and supervised release at the same time.

Edited by 

Acknowledgments 

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