358 U.S. 415 (1959), 137, Heflin v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 137
Citation:358 U.S. 415, 79 S.Ct. 451, 3 L.Ed.2d 407
Party Name:Heflin v. United States
Case Date:February 24, 1959
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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358 U.S. 415 (1959)

79 S.Ct. 451, 3 L.Ed.2d 407

Heflin

v.

United States

No. 137

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 24, 1959

Argued January 14-15, 1959

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner was indicted and convicted on three counts charging violations of the Federal Bank Robbery Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2113, by taking property by force and violence and assaulting and jeopardizing the lives of several persons in the course of the taking, in violation of § 2113(d), receiving the stolen property, in violation of § 2113(c), and conspiring to violate the Act. He was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on the first of these counts, three years on the conspiracy count, and a year and a day on the count charging receipt of the stolen property, the three sentences to run consecutively. While still in custody under the admittedly valid 10-year sentence, he moved for correction of the sentence, claiming that he could not be lawfully convicted under both subsection (c) and (d) of § 2113 for feloniously receiving and feloniously taking the same property.

Held:

1. Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is available only to attack a sentence under which the prisoner is in custody, but relief was available to petitioner under Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which authorizes the correction of an illegal sentence "at any time." Pp. 417-418.

2. The separate sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 2113(c) for receiving the stolen property was invalid, since that subsection was not designed to increase the punishment for one who robs a bank, but only to provide punishment for those who receive the loot from the robber. Prince v. United States, 352 U.S. 322. Pp. 419-420.

251 F.2d 69, reversed.

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DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner and two others were indicted and convicted under three counts charging violations of the Federal Bank Robbery Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2113. One count charged taking the property by force and violence, and assaulting and jeopardizing the lives of several persons in the course of the taking, in violation of § 2113(d).1 Another count charged that they did "receive, possess, conceal, store, and dispose" of the stolen money in violation of § 2113(c).2 A third count charged a conspiracy. The sentence imposed3 was 10 years on the first count mentioned above, 3 years on the conspiracy count to begin to run on expiration of the first, and 1 year and 1 day on the count charging receipt of the stolen property, this sentence to begin to run on expiration of the sentence on the conspiracy count.

All these events took place before our decision in Prince v. United States, 352 U.S. 322. Shortly thereafter, petitioner instituted this proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255,4

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complaining that he could not be lawfully convicted under both subsections (c) and (d) of § 2113, i.e., of feloniously receiving and feloniously taking the same property. The District Court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 251 F.2d 69. We granted certiorari (357 U.S. 935) because of an apparent conflict between that decision and the Prince case.

I. There is a preliminary question of jurisdiction. Petitioner is now in custody under the 10-year sentence, which admittedly is valid. Since he has not completed that sentence [79 S.Ct. 453] nor the consecutive conspiracy sentence, it is argued that relief by way of § 2255 may not be had.

We reviewed in United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, the history of § 2255 and emphasized that its purpose was to minimize some of the difficulties involved in the use of habeas corpus. It is now argued that, when consecutive

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sentences are imposed, § 2255, no more than habeas corpus (McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 138), can be used to question a sentence which the prisoner has not begun to serve. The Court is divided on that issue. Some think that, when § 2255 says "A motion for such relief may be made at any time," it means what it says. To them, the correction of sentence, if made, will affect "the right to be released," protected by § 2255, even though that right will not be immediately realized. A majority, however, are of the view, shared by several Courts of Appeals,5 that § 2255 is available only to attack a sentence under which a prisoner is in custody. Yet, in their view, relief under Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure6 is available (at least where matters dehors the record are...

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