First Circuit Weighs in on Split Re Meaning of "Warrant" in 18 U.S.C. sections 3606 & 3583(i)

Per U.S. v. Collazo-Castro, --- F.3d ----, 2011 WL 4495851 (1st Cir. Sept. 29, 2011):

The central dispute is whether the district court had relation-back jurisdiction under the Delayed Revocation Statute, which provides:

The power of the court to revoke a term of supervised release for violation of a condition of supervised release, and to order the defendant to serve a term of imprisonment and, subject to the limitations in subsection (h), a further term of supervised release, extends beyond the expiration of the term of supervised release for any period reasonably necessary for the adjudication of matters arising before its expiration if, before its expiration, a warrant or summons has been issued on the basis of an allegation of such a violation.

18 U.S.C. § 3583(i) (emphasis added). “While section 3583 extends the jurisdiction of a court to hold revocation hearings after the term of supervised release has expired, [18 U.S.C. § 3606] actually governs the issuance of warrants for the arrest of probationers or supervised releasees.” Garcia–Avalino, 444 F.3d at 446 n. 3; see also Vargas–Amaya, 389 F.3d at 906 (same). Section 3606 provides:

If there is probable cause to believe that a probationer or a person on supervised release has violated a condition of his probation or release, he may be arrested, and, upon arrest, shall be taken without unnecessary delay before the court having jurisdiction over him. A probation officer may make such an arrest wherever the probationer or releasee is found, and may make the arrest without a warrant. The court having supervision of the probationer or releasee, or, if there is no such court, the court last having supervision of the probationer or releasee, may issue a warrant for the arrest of a probationer or releasee for violation of a condition of release, and a probation officer or United States marshal may execute the warrant in the district in which the warrant was issued or in any district in which the probationer or releasee is found.

18 U.S.C. § 3606. Sections 3606 and 3583 were enacted in 1984 as part of the Sentencing Reform Act package that transformed the federal parole system into a supervised release system. “Under the Sentencing Reform Act's provisions for supervised release, the sentencing court, rather than the Parole Commission, would oversee the defendant's postconfinement monitoring.” Gozlon–Peretz v. United States, 498 U.S. 395, 400–01 (1991).

Appellant argues that in the absence of a statutory definition of “warrant,” this Court should apply the word's ordinary meaning, which, in her view, is the definition in the Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment provides that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. If the term “warrant” in sections 3606 and 3583(i) is defined to require sworn facts, the district court did not have jurisdiction to revoke appellant's supervision.

Two circuit courts have split on this precise issue. The Ninth Circuit held that the term “warrant” requires an oath or affirmation both as a matter of statutory interpretation and to avoid an interpretation inconsistent with the Constitution. See Vargas–Amaya, 389 F.3d at 904, 906. The Fifth Circuit came to the opposite conclusion. See Garcia–Avalino, 444 F.3d at 447. We agree with the Fifth Circuit.FN3

FN3. Two other courts of appeal have alluded to the split between the Fifth and Ninth Circuits, but neither took a position. See United States v. Brennan, 285 F. App'x 51, 56 (4th Cir.2008); United States v. Presley, 487 F.3d 1346, 1348 (11th Cir.2007).


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