418 U.S. 424 (1974), 73-5284, Dorszynski v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 73-5284
Citation:418 U.S. 424, 94 S.Ct. 3042, 41 L.Ed.2d 855
Party Name:Dorszynski v. United States
Case Date:June 26, 1974
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 424

418 U.S. 424 (1974)

94 S.Ct. 3042, 41 L.Ed.2d 855



United States

No. 73-5284

United States Supreme Court

June 26, 1974

Argued March 20, 1974




In sentencing a youth offender as an adult under other applicable penal statutes, § 5010(d) of the Federal Youth Corrections Act requires a federal district court to "find" that the offender would not benefit from treatment under the Act, but does not require that such "finding" be accompanied by supporting reasons. Pp. 431-444.

(a) Section 5010(d)'s requirement of a "no benefit" finding is not to be read as a substantive standard that must be satisfied to support a sentence outside the Act, for such a reading would not comport with the intent of the Act, as manifested by its legislative history, to increase federal trial judges' sentencing options, or with the traditional [94 S.Ct. 3044] doctrine that the sentencing function is exclusively vested in the trial court and is not reviewable if within the terms of the statute. It therefore follows that requiring a statement of supporting reasons to accompany a "no benefit" finding would limit the trial court's sentencing discretion, since it would only serve to facilitate appellate review of sentencing, contrary to the intent of the Act. Pp. 436-442.

(b) Section 5010(d)'s "no benefit" finding requirement was designed to insure that the sentencing judge deliberately exercised discretion in choosing not to commit a youth offender to treatment under the Act, such a finding making it clear that the judge was not only aware of the Act's existence, but also of the youth offender's eligibility for treatment thereunder. Once it is made clear that the judge has considered the option of the Act's treatment and rejected it, no appellate review is warranted. Pp. 442-443.

484 F.2d 849, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment,. in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, and STEWART, JJ., joined, post, p. 445.

Page 425

BURGER, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari, 414 U.S. 1091 (1973), to resolve a conflict in the Circuits concerning whether, in sentencing a youth offender under other applicable penal statutes, § 5010(d) of the Federal Youth Corrections Act, 18 U.S.C. § 5005 et seq., requires a federal district court first to make an explicit finding, supported by reasons on the record, that the offender would not benefit from treatment under subsection (b) or (c) of § 5010. The Court of Appeals held that such a finding may be implied from the record, 484 F.2d 849 (CA7 1973). Three Circuits have taken that position,1 and three Circuits have required an explicit finding accompanied by supporting reasons.2 We conclude that, while an express finding of no benefit must be made on the

Page 426

record, the Act does not require that it be accompanied by supporting reasons. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore reversed, and the case is remanded to the District Court for further proceedings.


On October 19, 1971, a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs made arrangements with petitioner's codefendant, whose case is not before this Court, to purchase approximately 1,000 tablets of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) the following day. At the appointed hour on October 20, 1971, the undercover agent was shown approximately 1,000 LSD tablets in the possession of petitioner's codefendant, who transferred the tablets to the agent. The exhibition and transfer took place in an automobile being driven by petitioner. After the tablets were transferred to the agent, but before money had changed hands, petitioner and his codefendant were arrested. The complaint upon which the arrest warrant for petitioner issued charged him with knowingly and intentionally possessing approximately 1,000 tablets of LSD, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2 and 21 U.S.C. § 844(a).3 Subsequent to petitioner's release on his own recognizance, his counsel informed the [94 S.Ct. 3045] District Court that petitioner intended to plead guilty to the charge, and requested the completion of a presentence report prior to the plea, as authorized by Fed.Rule Crim.Proc. 32(c).

On February 14, 1972, proceedings were had in the District Court upon the filing of an information, arraignment,

Page 427

plea, and sentence. The Government filed a one-count information charging petitioner and his codefendant with a misdemeanor offense under 18 U.S.C. § 2 and 21 U.S.C. § 844(a). The Government informed the court that the maximum sentence petitioner and his codefendant, who were first offenders under § 844(a), could receive was one year in prison, a fine of $5,000, or both; the court was also advised that, since petitioner might have been under the age of 26, see n. 9, infra, he "may also be subject to the Federal Youth Corrections Act."4 App. 6. Petitioner, who was 19

Page 428

years old at the time of the proceeding, and had had no prior criminal record, pleaded guilty, as did his codefendant. After inquiry as prescribed by Fed.Rule Crim.Proc. 11 to determine whether there was a basis, in fact, for petitioner's guilty plea, and whether it was [94 S.Ct. 3046] entered voluntarily with understanding of its nature and consequences,5 the District Court accepted the plea.

Page 429

Since petitioner desired to be sentenced at this proceeding, the District Court recessed to consider the presentence report, which petitioner's counsel had already read. After recess and before sentencing, petitioner was given his right to allocution, and petitioner's counsel requested the court that petitioner "be placed . . . on probation under the Youth Corrections Act." App. 13. See n. 4, supra. Petitioner then received a split sentence which remitted him to the custody of the Attorney General for one year, to serve 90 days' confinement "in a jail-type or treatment" institution, although the judgment mentions only a "jail-type" institution; the execution of the remainder of the sentence was suspended, and petitioner was placed on probation for two years upon release from custody. 18 U.S.C. § 3651.6 At no time during the proceeding, including

Page 430

sentencing, did the District Court make any reference to the Federal Youth Corrections Act.

On May 1, 1972, after having filed numerous other post-conviction motions for relief, petitioner filed the motion at issue here, seeking relief pursuant to Fed.Rules Crim.Proc. 32(d) and 35, and 28 U.S.C. § 2255, on two grounds. The first alleged that his guilty plea was not made understandingly; that issue is not before us. See n. 5, supra. The second alleged that the District Court was without jurisdiction to impose the sentence given because the court failed to make a finding that petitioner would not derive benefit from treatment under § 5010(b) or (c), as assertedly required by § 5010(d). See n. 4, supra. The District Court held an evidentiary hearing to consider this motion, as well as other motions pending at that time. All were denied without opinion. The District Court stated at the post-conviction

Page 431

hearing that the Act did not require an affirmative [94 S.Ct. 3047] finding that petitioner would not benefit from treatment thereunder before the court could sentence him under other applicable penalty provisions; the court concluded that, in committing petitioner for one year under a split sentence "the [District] Court impliedly [held] the Youth Corrections Act not applicable." App. 45.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting the view that trial judges must make an explicit finding that youth offenders would not benefit from treatment under the Act. The Court of Appeals held that such a determination may be implied from the record as a whole, and that the imposition of the split sentence upon petitioner after his counsel had raised the possibility of sentencing under that Act satisfied § 5010(d). 484 F.2d at 851.


The Federal Youth Corrections Act

The sole issue in this case is the validity of the sentence imposed by the District Court. Petitioner contends that, before any adult sentence may be imposed § 5010(d) requires, first, that the sentencing judge find explicitly that the convicted defendant would receive no benefit from treatment under the Act and, second, that the sentencing judge must explain the reasons for his finding. We begin with the general proposition that, once it is determined that a sentence is within the limitations set forth in the statute under which it is imposed, appellate review is at an end.7 Gore v. United States, 357

Page 432

U.S. 386, 393 (1958); Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 741 (1948); Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 305 (1932). Our task, therefore, is to determine whether the sentence imposed here was permitted under § 5010(d) of the Act.

The Federal Youth Corrections Act has been accurately described as the most comprehensive federal statute concerned with sentencing. United States v. Coefield, 155 U.S.App.D.C. 205, 209, 476 F.2d 1152, 1156 (1973). The Act is in substantial part an outgrowth of recommendations made by the Judicial Conference of the United States more than 30 years ago.8 The principles and procedures contained in the Conference recommendations were, in turn, largely based on those developed since 1894 for a system of treatment of young offenders in England, known as the Borstal system. See Criminal Justice Act of 1948, 11 & 12 Geo. 6, c. 58, and Criminal Justice Act of 161, 9 & 10 Eliz. 2, c. 39. Statistics available at the time of the...

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