473 U.S. 716 (1985), 84-776, Carchmer v. Nash

Docket Nº:No. 84-776
Citation:473 U.S. 716, 105 S.Ct. 3401, 87 L.Ed.2d 516, 53 U.S.L.W. 5097
Party Name:Carchmer v. Nash
Case Date:July 02, 1985
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 716

473 U.S. 716 (1985)

105 S.Ct. 3401, 87 L.Ed.2d 516, 53 U.S.L.W. 5097

Carchmer

v.

Nash

No. 84-776

United States Supreme Court

July 2, 1985

Argued April 22, 1985

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Article III of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (Agreement), a congressionally sanctioned interstate compact, establishes a procedure by which a prisoner incarcerated in one State (the sending State) may demand the speedy disposition of "any untried indictment, information or complaint" that is the basis of the detainer lodged against him by another State (the receiving State). If the prisoner makes such a demand, Art. III requires the authorities in the receiving State to bring him to trial within 180 days or the court must dismiss the indictment, information, or complaint, and the detainer will cease to be of any force or effect. Respondent was convicted on criminal charges in New Jersey Superior Court, which imposed prison sentences and a 2-year term of probation to follow imprisonment. Thereafter, while on probation, respondent was sentenced to prison there. While he was awaiting trial in Pennsylvania, the New Jersey authorities notified the New Jersey Superior Court that he had [105 S.Ct. 3402] violated his probation by committing offenses in Pennsylvania, and that court issued an arrest warrant, which was lodged as a detainer with the corrections officials in Pennsylvania. Although respondent requested New Jersey officials to make a final disposition of the probation violation charge, that State failed to bring him to trial within 180 days. Respondent then brought a habeas corpus petition in Federal District Court seeking dismissal of the probation violation charge on the basis of New Jersey's noncompliance with Art. III. The District Court stayed respondent's federal action pending exhaustion of state court remedies. After the New Jersey courts denied respondent relief under the Agreement, revoked his probation, and resentenced him to a term of imprisonment, the District Court granted respondent's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that an outstanding probation violation charge is an "untried indictment, information or complaint" within the meaning of Art. III.

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Held: Article III does not apply to detainers based on probation violation charges. Pp. 724-734.

(a) The language of the Agreement indicates that Art. III applies solely to detainers based on outstanding criminal charges. Article III, by its terms, applies to detainers based on an "indictment," "information," or "complaint." The most natural interpretation of these terms is that they refer to documents charging an individual with having committed a criminal offense. This interpretation is reinforced by the adjective "untried," by the requirement that the prisoner promptly be "brought to trial," and by the limitation that the receiving State obtains custody "only for the purpose of permitting prosecution" on the charges. A probation violation charge does not accuse an individual with having committed a criminal offense in the sense of initiating a prosecution. Although such a charge might be based on the commission of a criminal offense, it does not result in the probationer's being "prosecuted" or "brought to trial" for that offense. Nor does it result in the probationer's being "prosecuted" or "brought to trial" on the offense for which he initially was sentenced to probation, since he already will have been tried and convicted of that offense. Accordingly, a detainer based on a probation revocation charge does not come within the plain language of the Agreement. Pp. 724-726.

(b) The legislative history created by the Council of State Governments, the drafter of the Agreement, does not directly address the issue in this case, and does not support the inference that the Council intended Art. III to apply to detainers based on probation violation charges. And the congressional history indicates that Congress, which adopted the Agreement, considered it to apply only to detainers based on untried criminal charges. Pp. 726-729.

(c) The purposes of the Agreement, including the purpose of enabling prisoners to obtain prompt disposition of charges underlying detainers in order to protect them from the adverse consequences that detainers have on their treatment and rehabilitation, do not compel the conclusion that, contrary to the Agreement's plain language, Art. III was intended to apply to probation violation detainers. Such purposes are significantly less directly advanced by application of Art. III to probation violation detainers than by its application to criminal charge detainers. Pp. 729-734.

739 F.2d 878, reversed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 734.

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BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Article III of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers gives a prisoner incarcerated in one State the right to demand the speedy [105 S.Ct. 3403] disposition of "any untried indictment, information or

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complaint" that is the basis of a detainer lodged against him by another State. These cases present the issue whether Art. III applies to detainers based on probation violation charges.

I

The Interstate Agreement on Detainers (Agreement) is a compact among 48 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the United States. The Agreement was drafted in 1956 by the Council of State Governments and was adopted in 1958 by the State of New Jersey, where it is now codified as N.J.Stat.Ann. § 2A:159A-1 et seq. (West 1971). The Agreement is a congressionally sanctioned interstate compact within the Compact Clause, U.S.Const., Art. I, § 10, cl. 3, and thus is a federal law subject to federal construction. Cuyler v. Adams, 449 U.S. 433, 438-442 (1981).

A detainer is a request filed by a criminal justice agency with the institution in which a prisoner is incarcerated, asking the institution either to hold the prisoner for the agency or to notify the agency when release of the prisoner is imminent. See id. at 436, n. 3 (citing and quoting H.R.Rep. No. 91-1018, p. 2 (1970), and S.Rep. No. 91-1356, p. 2 (1970)); United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. 340, 359 (1978); Moody v. Daggett, 429 U.S. 78, 80-81, n. 2 (1976); Council of State Governments, Suggested State Legislation, Program for 1957, p. 74 (1956). Detainers generally are based on outstanding criminal charges, outstanding parole or probation violation charges, or additional sentences already imposed against the prisoner. See Dauber, Reforming the Detainer System: A Case Study, 7 Crim.L.Bull. 669, 676 (1971). See generally L. Abramson, Criminal Detainers (1979).

The Agreement is based on a legislative finding that

charges outstanding against a prisoner, detainers based on untried indictments, informations or complaints, and difficulties in securing speedy trial of persons already incarcerated in other jurisdictions, produce uncertainties which obstruct

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programs of prisoner treatment and rehabilitation.

Art. I. As has been explained:

The inmate who has a detainer against him is filled with anxiety and apprehension, and frequently does not respond to a training program. He often must be kept in close custody, which bars him from treatment such as trustyships, moderations of custody and opportunity for transfer to farms and work camps. In many jurisdictions, he is not eligible for parole; there is little hope for his release after an optimum period of training and treatment, when he is ready for return to society with an excellent possibility that he will not offend again. Instead, he often becomes embittered with continued institutionalization, and the objective of the correctional system is defeated.

Council of State Governments, Suggested State Legislation, Program for 1957, p. 74 (1956). See also Cuyler v. Adams, 449 U.S. at 449; United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. at 353, 356, 359-360. Accordingly, the purpose of the Agreement is

to encourage the expeditious and orderly disposition of [outstanding] charges and determination of the proper status of any and all detainers based on untried indictments, informations or complaints.

Art. I.

To achieve this purpose, Art. III of the Agreement establishes a procedure by which a prisoner incarcerated in one party State (the sending State) may demand the speedy disposition of "any untried indictment, information or complaint on the basis of which a detainer has been lodged against the prisoner"1 by another party [105 S.Ct. 3404] State (the receiving State).

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Specifically, Art. III requires the warden to inform the prisoner that a detainer has been lodged against him and that he may request final disposition of the indictment, information, or complaint upon which the detainer is based. If the prisoner makes such a request, the warden must forward it, together with a certificate providing certain information about the prisoner's terms of confinement, to the appropriate prosecuting official and court of the receiving State. The authorities in the receiving State then must bring the prisoner to trial within 180 days, absent good cause shown, or the court must dismiss the indictment, information, or complaint with prejudice, and the detainer will cease to be of any force or effect.

II

On June 21, 1976, respondent Richard Nash, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, pleaded guilty to charges of breaking and entering with intent...

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