From Casetext: Smarter Legal Research

Bradley v. United States

U.S.
Mar 5, 1973
410 U.S. 605 (1973)

Summary

holding that an amendment to a criminal statute did not apply retroactively to offenses committed prior to the effective date of the amendment, even though the defendants were sentenced after that date

Summary of this case from United States v. Aviles

Opinion

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT

No. 71-1304.

Argued January 8, 1973 Decided March 5, 1973

On May 6, 1971, petitioners were convicted and sentenced for narcotics offenses committed in March 1971. They received the minimum five-year sentences under a provision that was mandatory and made the sentences not subject to suspension, probation, or parole. Effective May 1, 1971, that provision was repealed and liberalized by the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. On petitioners' motion for vacation of their sentences and remand for resentencing, the Court of Appeals held that the new provisions were unavailable in view of the Act's saving clause, which made them inapplicable to "prosecutions" antedating the Act's effective date. Held:

1. The word "prosecutions" in the saving clause is to be accorded its normal legal sense, under which sentencing is a part of the concept of prosecution. Therefore, the saving clause barred the District Judge from suspending sentence or placing petitioners on probation. Pp. 607-610.

2. Under the saving clause, parole under 18 U.S.C. § 4208 (a) is likewise unavailable to petitioners, since by its terms that provision is inapplicable to offenses for which a mandatory penalty is provided; and, in any event, a decision to grant early parole under that provision must be made "[u]pon entering a judgment of conviction," which occurs before the end of the prosecution. Pp. 610-611.

455 F.2d 1181, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C. J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, and in Part I of which BRENNAN and WHITE, JJ., joined. BRENNAN and WHITE, JJ., filed a statement concurring in the judgment, post, p. 611. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 612.

William P. Homans, Jr., argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioners. Deputy Solicitor General Lacovara argued the cause for the United States. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Griswold, Assistant Attorney General Petersen, Harriet S. Shapiro, and Jerome M. Feit.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed by Harvey A. Silverglate for Ralph De Simone; by Irwin Klein for Gerson Nagelberg et al.; and by Fred M. Vinson, Jr., and Robert S. Erdahl for seven women prisoners.


In this case we must decide whether a District Judge may impose a sentence of less than five years, suspend the sentence, place the offender on probation, or specify that he be eligible for parole, where the offender was convicted of a federal narcotics offense that was committed before May 1, 1971, but where he was sentenced after that date. Petitioners were convicted of conspiring to violate 26 U.S.C. § 4705 (a) (1964 ed.) by selling cocaine not in pursuance of a written order form, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7237 (b) (1964 ed.). The conspiracy occurred in March 1971. At that time, persons convicted of such violations were subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. The sentence could not be suspended, nor could probation be granted, and parole pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4202 was unavailable. 26 U.S.C. § 7237 (d) (1964 ed. and Supp. V). These provisions were repealed by §§ 1101(b)(3)(A) and (b) (4)(A) of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, 84 Stat. 1292. The effective date of that Act was May 1, 1971, five days before petitioners were convicted.

Each petitioner was sentenced to a five-year term. On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, various points, not here relevant, were raised. Following affirmance of their convictions, petitioners moved that their sentences be vacated and their cases be remanded to the District Court for resentencing pursuant to Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 35. In their motion they contended that the District Court should have considered "certain sentencing alternatives, including probation, suspension of sentence and parole" which became available on May 1, 1971. The Court of Appeals considered this motion as an "appendage" to the appeal. It held that the specific saving clause of the 1970 Act, § 1103(a), read against the background of the general saving provision, 1 U.S.C. § 109, required that "narcotics offenses committed prior to May 1, 1971, are to be punished according to the law in force at the time of the offense," and that "under the mandate of § 109 the repealed statute, § 7237(d) is `[to] be treated as still remaining in force.'" 455 F.2d 1181, 1190, 1191. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals held that the trial judge lacked power to impose a lesser sentence.

Petitioners Bradley, Helliesen, and Odell were found guilty also of unlawfully carrying a firearm during the commission of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924 (c)(2). Each was sentenced to one year in prison; the sentences were suspended, and each was placed on probation for three years on these counts.

We granted the petition for writ of certiorari, 407 U.S. 908 (1972), in order to resolve the conflict between the First and Ninth Circuits, see United States v. Stephens, 449 F.2d 103 (CA9 1971).

See also United States v. McGarr, 461 F.2d 1 (CA7 1972); United States v. Fiotto, 454 F.2d 252 (CA2 1972).

I

At common law, the repeal of a criminal statute abated all prosecutions which had not reached final disposition in the highest court authorized to review them. See Bell v. Maryland, 378 U.S. 226, 230 (1964); Norris v. Crocker, 13 How. 429 (1852). Abatement by repeal included a statute's repeal and re-enactment with different penalties. See 1 J. Sutherland, Statutes and Statutory Construction § 2031 n. 2 (3d ed. 1943). And the rule applied even when the penalty was reduced. See, e. g., The King v. M'Kenzie, 168 Eng. Rep. 881 (Cr. Cas. 1820); Beard v. State, 74 Md. 130, 21 A. 700 (1891). To avoid such results, legislatures frequently indicated an intention not to abate pending prosecutions by including in the repealing statute a specific clause stating that prosecutions of offenses under the repealed statute were not to be abated. See generally Note, Today's Law and Yesterday's Crime: Retroactive Application of Ameliorative Criminal Legislation, 121 U. Pa. L. Rev. 120, 121-130 (1972).

Section 1103(a) of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 is such a saving clause. It provides:

"Prosecutions for any violation of law occurring prior to the effective date of [the Act] shall not be affected by the repeals or amendments made by [it] . . . or abated by reason thereof."

Petitioners contend that the word "prosecutions" in § 1103(a) must be given its everyday meaning. When people speak of prosecutions, they usually mean a proceeding that is under way in which guilt is to be determined. In ordinary usage, sentencing is not part of the prosecution, but occurs after the prosecution has concluded. In providing that "[p]rosecutions . . . shall not be affected," § 1103(a) means only that a defendant may be found guilty of an offense which occurred before May 1, 1971. The repeal of the statute creating the offense does not, on this narrow interpretation of § 1103(a), prevent a finding of guilt. But § 1103(a) does nothing more, according to petitioners.

Although petitioners' argument has some force, we believe that their position is not consistent with Congress' intent. Rather than using terms in their everyday sense, "[t]he law uses familiar legal expressions in their familiar legal sense." Henry v. United States, 251 U.S. 393, 395 (1920). The term "prosecution" clearly imports a beginning and an end. Cf. Kirby v. Illinois, 406 U.S. 682 (1972); Mempa v. Rhay, 389 U.S. 128 (1967).

In Berman v. United States, 302 U.S. 211 (1937), this Court said, "Final judgment in a criminal case means sentence. The sentence is the judgment. Miller v. Aderhold, 288 U.S. 206, 210; Hill v. Wampler, 298 U.S. 460, 464." Id., at 212. In the legal sense, a prosecution terminates only when sentence is imposed. See also Korematsu v. United States, 319 U.S. 432 (1943); United States v. Murray, 275 U.S. 347 (1928); Affronti v. United States, 350 U.S. 79 (1955). So long as sentence has not been imposed, then, § 1103(a) is to leave the prosecution unaffected.

These cases involve determining whether a judgment in a criminal case is final for the purpose of appeal and determining whether the function of the trial judge has been concluded so that he may not alter the sentence previously imposed to include probation. The precise issues are, of course, different from the issue in this case. But these cases do show the point at which a prosecution terminates, and that is the issue here.

Petitioners also argue that imposition of sentence precedes the suspension of sentence and the grant of probation. But the actions of the District Judge in imposing sentence and then ordering that it be suspended are usually so close in time that it would be unrealistic to hold that Congress intended so to fragment what is essentially a single proceeding.

We therefore conclude that the Court of Appeals properly rejected petitioners' motion to vacate sentence and remand for resentencing. The District Judge had no power to consider suspending petitioners' sentences or placing them on probation. Those decisions must ordinarily be made before the prosecution terminates, and § 1103(a) preserves the limitations of § 7237(d) on decisions made at that time.

II

The courts of appeals that have dealt with this problem have failed, however, to consider fully the special problem of the parole eligibility of offenders convicted before May 1, 1971. The Seventh and Ninth Circuits hold that such offenders are eligible for parole. The First Circuit in this case stated that petitioners were "ineligible for suspended sentences, parole, or probation." 455 F.2d, at 1191 (emphasis added).

See n. 2, supra. We were informed at oral argument that "the Board of Parole is now considering as eligible for parole only defendants who have been sentenced in the Seventh and Ninth Circuits for narcotics offenses." Tr. of Oral Arg. 23. Our disposition of this case has no bearing on the power of the Board of Parole to consider parole eligibility for petitioners under 18 U.S.C. § 4202. See infra, at 611.

In the federal system, offenders may be made eligible for parole in two ways. Any federal prisoner "whose record shows that he has observed the rules of the institution in which he is confined, may be released on parole after serving one-third of" his sentence. 18 U.S.C. § 4202. Alternatively, the District Judge, "[u]pon entering a judgment of conviction . . . may (1) designate in the sentence of imprisonment imposed a minimum term, at the expiration of which the prisoner shall become eligible for parole, which term may be less than, but shall not be more than one-third of the maximum sentence imposed by the court, or (2) the court may fix the maximum sentence of imprisonment to be served, in which event the court may specify that the prisoner may become eligible for parole at such time as the board of parole may determine." 18 U.S.C. § 4208 (a).

Section 1103(a) clearly makes parole unavailable under the latter provision. As we have said, sentencing is part of the prosecution. The mandatory minimum sentence of five years must therefore be imposed on offenders who violated the law before May 1, 1971. And Congress specifically provided that § 4208(a) does not apply to any offense "for which there is provided a mandatory penalty." Pub.L. 85-752, § 7, 72 Stat. 847. In any event, the decision to make early parole available under § 4208(a) must be made "[u]pon entering a judgment of conviction," which occurs before the prosecution has ended. Section 1103(a) thus means that the District Judge cannot specify at the time of sentencing that the offender may be eligible for early parole.

That was the only question before the Court of Appeals, and it is therefore the only question before us. Petitioners' motion, on which the Court of Appeals ruled, requested a remand so that the District Judge could consider the sentencing alternatives available to him under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. That Act, however, did not expand the choices open to the District Judge in this case, and the Court of Appeals correctly denied the motion to remand. The availability of parole under the general parole statute, 18 U.S.C. § 4202, is a rather different matter, on which we express no opinion.

The decision to grant parole under § 4202 lies with the Board of Parole, not with the District Judge, and must be made long after sentence has been entered and the prosecution terminated. Whether § 1103(a) or the general saving statute, 1 U.S.C. § 109, limits that decision is a question we cannot consider in this case.

Affirmed.


Part I of the Court's opinion and would affirm for the reasons there expressed. They are also of the view that § 1103(a) forecloses the availability of parole under both 18 U.S.C. § 4202 and 18 U.S.C. § 4208 (a), and that even if this were debatable as to § 4202, the general saving statute, 1 U.S.C. § 109, clearly mandates that conclusion as to that section. They therefore do not join Part II of the Court's opinion.


The correct interpretation of the word "prosecutions" as used in § 1103(a) of the 1970 Act was, in my view, the one given by the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit in United States v. Stephens, 449 F.2d 103, 105:

"Prosecution ends with judgment. The purpose of the section has been served when judgment under the old Act has been entered and abatement of proceedings has been avoided. At that point litigation has ended and appeal is available. Korematsu v. United States, 319 U.S. 432, 63 S.Ct. 1124, 87 L.Ed. 1497 (1943). What occurs thereafter — the manner in which judgment is carried out, executed or satisfied, and whether or not it is suspended — in no way affects the prosecution of the case."

The problem of ambiguities in statutory language is not peculiar to legislation dealing with criminal matters. And the question as to how those ambiguities should be resolved is not often rationalized. The most dramatic illustration, at least in modern times, is illustrated by Rosenberg v. United States, 346 U.S. 273, where a divided Court resolved an ambiguity in a statutory scheme against life, not in its favor. The instant case is not of that proportion, but it does entail the resolution of unspoken assumptions — those favoring the status quo of prison systems as opposed to those who see real rehabilitation as the only cure of the present prison crises. As Mr. Justice Holmes said, "judges do and must legislate, but they can do so only interstitially; they are confined from molar to molecular motions." Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205, 221 (dissenting opinion).

Mr. Justice Holmes also said:
"[I]n substance the growth of the law is legislative. And this in a deeper sense than that which the courts declare to have always been the law is in fact new. It is legislative in its grounds. The very considerations which the courts most rarely mention, and always with an apology, are the secret root from which the law draws all the juices of life. We mean, of course, considerations of what is expedient for the community concerned. Every important principle which is developed by litigation is in fact and at bottom the result of more or less definitely understood views of public policy; most generally, to be sure, under our practice and traditions, the unconscious result of instinctive preferences and inarticulate convictions, but none the less traceable to public policy in the last analysis. And as the law is administered by able and experienced men, who know too much to sacrifice good sense to a syllogism, it will be found that when ancient rules maintain themselves in this way, new reasons more fitted to the time have been found for them, and that they gradually receive a new content and at last a new form from the grounds to which they have been transplanted. The importance of tracing the process lies in the fact that it is unconscious, and involves the attempt to follow precedents, as well as to give a good reason for them, and that hence, if it can be shown that one half of the effort has failed, we are at liberty to consider the question of policy with a freedom that was not possible before." Common Carriers and the Common Law, 13 Am. L. Rev. 609, 630-631 (1879).

Judges do not make legislative policies. But in construing an ambiguous word in a criminal code, I would try to give it a meaning that would help reverse the long trend in this Nation not to consider a prisoner a "person" in the constitutional sense. Fay Stender, writing the introduction to Maximum Security, p. X, has described some of the "tremendously sophisticated defenses against the least increase in the enforceable human rights available to the prisoner." (E. Pell ed., Bantam Books 1973).

A less strict and rigid meaning of the present Act would be only a minor start in the other direction. But it is one I would take.


Summaries of

Bradley v. United States

U.S.
Mar 5, 1973
410 U.S. 605 (1973)

holding that an amendment to a criminal statute did not apply retroactively to offenses committed prior to the effective date of the amendment, even though the defendants were sentenced after that date

Summary of this case from United States v. Aviles

holding that "the law uses familiar legal expressions in their familiar legal sense"

Summary of this case from United Technologies Corp. v. Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc.

finding that under Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, "prosecution terminates only when sentence is imposed"

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Fisher

vacating conviction on such grounds without reference to Powell

Summary of this case from United States v. Previte

approving search of a flight bag thrown into a separate room by the defendant upon his arrest

Summary of this case from Ricks v. State

describing the common-law rule

Summary of this case from Young v. United States

defining “prosecution” within meaning ascribed by savings clause of Section 1103 of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970

Summary of this case from United States v. Cruz

interpreting the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 and stating "sentencing is part of the prosecution"

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Avants

construing the term "prosecutions" which has both everyday and legal meaning in familiar legal sense when used in drug act

Summary of this case from Cable Arizona Corp. v. Coxcom, Inc.

In Bradley, it was reasoned that a court should apply "the law in effect at the time it renders its decision, unless doing so would result in manifest injustice or there is statutory direction or legislative history to the contrary."

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Rumney

In United States v. Bradley, 410 U.S. 605, 607-610, 93 S.Ct. 1151, 1154-1155, 35 L.Ed.2d 528 (1973), the Court held that narcotic offenses committed prior to the effective date of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 were to be punished according to the law enforced at the time of the offense, notwithstanding that the sentencing occurred after the effective date of the Act.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Lightsey

In Bradley v. United States, 410 U.S. 605, 611, 93 S.Ct. 1151, 1155, 35 L.Ed.2d 528 (1973), the Supreme Court strictly construed the language of 18 U.S.C. § 4208 to conclude that "the decision to make early parole available under § 4208(a) must be made `[u]pon entering a judgment of conviction,' which occurs before the prosecution has ended."

Summary of this case from United States v. Crawford

In Bradley v. United States, 410 U.S. 605, 93 S.Ct. 1151, 35 L.Ed.2d 528 (1973), the Supreme Court, after deciding that sentencing is part of the concept of prosecution and thus that the new sentencing provisions of the CDAPCA were inapplicable to a person convicted under the old law, expressly left open the question of the availability of parole under the general parole statute, 18 U.S.C.A. § 4202. 410 U.S. at 611, 93 S.Ct. 1151, 35 L.Ed.2d at 534.

Summary of this case from Amaya v. U.S. Board of Parole

In Bradley, decided four months after De Simone, a majority of the Court emphasized the very distinction appellant presses upon us, holding that section 1103(a) of the Drug Control Act preserves the limitations of § 7237 on decisions made at the time of sentence for violation of the former drug laws, e. g., whether to suspend sentence, or utilize probation, or impose a prison term. 93 S.Ct. 1151. As to these determinations, the portions of section 7237 that barred suspension of sentence or use of probation and that required a minimum five-year prison term were still effective.

Summary of this case from United States v. Huguet

In Bradley v. United States, 410 U.S. 605, 93 S.Ct. 1151, 35 L.Ed.2d 528 (1973), the Supreme Court expressly differentiates between the grant of parole as a part of the sentencing and the "rather different matter' involving the possible grant of parole at a later stage of the correction process.

Summary of this case from Ganz v. Bensinger

In Bradley v. United States, 410 U.S. 605, 93 S.Ct. 1151, 35 L.Ed.2d 528, the United States Supreme Court resolved the conflict between the circuits, compare United States v. Bradley, 1 Cir., 455 F.2d 1181, and Page v. United States, 10 Cir., 459 F.2d 467, with United States v. Stephens, 9 Cir., 449 F.2d 103, over the effect and applicability of the § 1103(a) savings provisions.

Summary of this case from Perea v. United States Board of Parole

In Bradley, the Court held: "The District Judge had no power to consider suspending petitioners' sentences or placing them on probation."

Summary of this case from United States v. Lopez

noting that a prosecution terminates when a sentence is imposed

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Byars

noting that, "[i]n the legal sense, a prosecution terminates only when sentence is imposed" and concluding that a defendant who committed drug offenses prior to the effective date of an ameliorative sentencing amendment could not avail himself of its terms despite his conviction and sentencing occurring after the effect date of the amendment

Summary of this case from State v. Reis

In Bradley v. United States, 410 U.S. 605, 93 S.Ct. 1151, 35 L.Ed.2d 528 (1973), the Court addressed the specific savings clause in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 and sustained the ruling of the First Circuit which, like the Second Circuit in Ross, had held the more lenient sentencing provisions of the 1970 Act unavailable.

Summary of this case from Holiday v. U.S.

In Bradley, what was sought was a lighter sentence than applied when the criminal conduct was committed; it was sufficient to that purpose, and did not pose any cost to public and legislative policy against crime, to merely invoke the general saving clause to punish the defendants under the previous law.

Summary of this case from Barrett v. State

In Bradley v. United States, 410 U.S. 605, 93 S Ct 1151, 35 L Ed 2d 528 (1973), the Supreme Court of the United States considered a similar problem arising under the federal narcotics law.

Summary of this case from State v. Twilleager

In Bradley v. United States, 410 U.S. 605, 12 CrLR 3198, the United States Supreme Court reached a different conclusion.

Summary of this case from Commonwealth v. Santiago
Case details for

Bradley v. United States

Case Details

Full title:BRADLEY ET AL. v . UNITED STATES

Court:U.S.

Date published: Mar 5, 1973

Citations

410 U.S. 605 (1973)
93 S. Ct. 1151

Citing Cases

State v. Reis

The conclusion that sentencing is an inseparable stage in the progression of a unitary criminal prosecution…

Holiday v. U.S.

See Kaiser Aluminum Chemical Corp. v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827, 841, 110 S.Ct. 1570, 1579, 108 L.Ed.2d 842…