Sunday, December 21, 2014

Case o' The Week: Speedy Trial? (or Wait Awhile) - Gavilanes-Ocaranza, the Sixth Amendment, and Supervised Release

Hon. Judge Susan P. Graber

The Sixth Amendment and Supervised Release: never the twain shall meet.  
  United States v. Gavilanes-Ocaranza, 772 F.3d 624 (9th Cir. Nov. 25, 2014), decision available here.

Players: Decision by Judge Graber, joined by Judge Hawkins and District Judge Sedwick

Facts: Gavilanes-Ocaranza pled guilty to attempted illegal reentry and received a three-year supervised release term after his term of imprisonment. Id. at *626. He was removed, reentered, detected, and convicted of reentry again; he received a 46-month custody term from another court. Id. at 626. Gavilanes-Ocaranza was then brought back before the original district court to face allegations that he had violated his original supervised release conditions. Id. at 627. He admitted the allegations, was revoked, and received a twelve-month custodial term for the S/R violation, consecutive to his 46 month sentence for the second illegal reentry. Id. None of the issues in the appeal were raised in the district court (hence plain error review review).

Issue(s): “We have held that the supervised release system under 18 U.S.C. § 3583, including revocation of that release and imposition of additional prison time as a result of a violation of a term of the release, does not violate a defendant’s right to trial by jury. Huerta-Pimental, 445 F.3d at 1224. Defendant contends that Alleyne v. United States … 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013), effectively overruled Huerta-Pimental.” Id. at 628.

Held: “We disagree . . . we hold that, after Allyene, Huerta-Pimental remains good law. We reaffirm that the revocation of supervised release and the imposition of additional prison time pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3583 do not violate a defendant’s right to trial by jury.” Id at 628-29.

Of Note: Supervised release defense is hammered, in this brief opinion. In addition to shooting down the Apprendi pitch, the Court also takes on a Sixth Amendment Speedy Trial challenge. In this case, Gavilanes-Ocaranza was actually promptly brought before the original district court for the revocation proceedings. Id. at 628. He creatively argued, however, that the revocation was an extension of the original criminal prosecution years before – and thus the revocation hearing violated his right to a speedy trial. Id. 

  The Ninth wipes out this narrow argument in a broad holding: “To the extent that our precedent is ambiguous on that point, we eliminate that ambiguity by holding now that there is no Sixth Amendment right to a speedy ‘trial’ in supervised release revocation proceedings and that a revocation proceeding is neither its own criminal prosecution nor an extension of the original criminal prosecution that led to the imposition of supervised release.” Id.   

How to Use: Gavilanes-Ocaranza is about the Sixth Amendment and its (non-application) to supervised release. While the decision’s Speedy Trial holding isn’t terribly surprising, the general problem of delayed revocation proceedings remains real. AUSAs and Probation Officers make no effort to bring clients over from state custody to face federal S/R charges – they know that the delay will hamstring the district court imposing a supervised release term, and will increase the odds of consecutive violation sentences. 

  As Gavilanes-Ocaranza explains, there’s no Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial on violation charges, but Judge Graber acknowledges that there is a Fifth Amendment due process right to a “reasonably prompt hearing.” Id. at 628 (citing United States v. Santana, 526 F.3d 1257, 1259 (9th Cir. 2008)). When trying to get your client back before a DJ for violation proceedings, think Fifth, not Sixth, as the hook.
For Further Reading: We’re used to the shoddy evidence procedures with local cops, but the Feds have their act together, right? 

  Not so much. 

An internal inquiry has revealed that the FBI has mishandled and lost evidence, with errors discovered “in nearly half of the pieces of evidence it reviewed.” See F.B.I. Evidence is Often Mishandled, an Internal Inquiry Finds, NYT available here.

Image of the Honorable Judge Susan P. Graber from

Steven Kalar, Federal Public Defender, N.D. Cal. Website at

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