U.S. v. Amidon

Decision Date17 September 1980
Docket NumberNo. 80-1026,80-1026
Citation627 F.2d 1023
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Bruce L. AMIDON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

John J. Cleary, San Diego, Cal., for defendant-appellant.

Roger W. Haines, Jr., Asst. U.S. Atty., San Diego, Cal., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.

Before HUG and FERGUSON, Circuit Judges, and EAST, * District Judge.

FERGUSON, Circuit Judge.

Bruce L. Amidon appeals the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss an order to show cause why his probation should not be revoked. He based his motion on the asserted illegality of his sentence under the Youth Corrections Act (YCA), 18 U.S.C. § 5010(b). We reverse.

Amidon pled guilty on March 12, 1979 to a misdemeanor information charging two counts of mutilating national bank obligations in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 333. After the court accepted his plea, it dismissed an underlying felony indictment charging two counts of connecting parts of different federal reserve notes in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 472. The court earlier had twice refused to accept Amidon's plea because he would not waive indictment on the misdemeanor counts. Amidon believed that without such an indictment the court could not sentence him under the YCA. Amidon's wish to avoid sentencing under the YCA is understandable, since under § 5017(c) and (d) of the Act, he could be sentenced for up to six years. 18 U.S.C. § 5017(c), (d).

On April 17, 1979, the district court did sentence Amidon, over his objection, to study under the YCA, § 5010(e), and on September 17, it sentenced him to probation under the Act, § 5010(a). Amidon did not object to the sentence of probation, and he did not appeal either aspect of the sentencing.

After Amidon allegedly violated conditions of his probation, the district court on December 17, 1979, issued the order to show cause why probation should not be revoked. Amidon filed a motion to dismiss the order, arguing that his indeterminate sentence of commitment under the YCA was illegal because there was no compliance with the indictment clause of the fifth amendment and because sentencing under the YCA to a term longer than an adult would receive violates due process and equal protection. The district court denied the motion and sentenced Amidon to custody for an indeterminate period under 18 U.S.C. § 5010(b).

Amidon's challenge to the court's denial of his motion is an attack on the legality of the sentence the court imposed on April 17 and September 17. To secure review, he should have appealed the sentence when it was imposed. See United States v. Reeb, 433 F.2d 381, 383 (9th Cir. 1970); United States v. Fort, 409 F.2d 441, 443-44 (D.C. Cir. 1969). See also Corey v. United States, 375 U.S. 169, 174 & n.15, 84 S.Ct. 298, 302 & n.15, 11 L.Ed.2d 229 (1965). Alternatively, he could have filed a motion in the district court pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. Rule 35 to correct an illegal sentence. Although he did not technically do so, the motion that Amidon did file to dismiss the order to show cause operated in the same way as a Rule 35 motion. The grounds on which he based his motion to dismiss are the identical ones he would present in a motion under Rule 35. It would be pointless, then, to require Amidon to return to district court to re-present his motion under a new title. See United States v. Tindle, 522 F.2d 689 (D.C. Cir. 1975). Accordingly, we will construe his appeal as an appeal from a denial of a motion to correct an illegal sentence.

We addressed Amidon's first asserted ground of illegality, the indictment issue, in strikingly similar circumstances in United States v. Ramirez, 556 F.2d 909 (9th Cir. 1976). In Ramirez, it was originally held that a prosecution for a misdemeanor must be initiated by indictment when the defendant could be sentenced under the YCA. Id. at 923. The opinion was withdrawn on rehearing, however, after it was learned that the government had initiated the prosecution with a felony indictment involving the same facts as the misdemeanor information. The same situation is presented here. Defendant points to two differences between the two cases: (1) the defendant in Ramirez did not object at all to the government's filing of a superseding information; and (2) the court dismissed the underlying indictment in Ramirez after sentencing instead of after conviction, as here.

Amidon did make it clear to the district court that he would not waive indictment and did not wish to be sentenced under the YCA. Nonetheless, he was prepared to plead to the information precisely because he believed that doing so would protect him from a YCA sentence. He had no desire to be indicted and did not reply when the government offered to obtain an indictment. Moreover, when the court finally accepted Amidon's plea to the information, he made no objection to its filing. Thus, we do not find Ramirez distinguishable on the first ground.

The dismissal of the indictment here after conviction instead of after sentencing, as in Ramirez, also is inconsequential. In both cases, there was compliance with the indictment clause of the fifth amendment, which protects a defendant against being "held to answer" for an infamous crime except upon indictment. While it was held in Ramirez that potential sentencing under the YCA rendered a crime "infamous," id. at 922-23, it was clearly indicated that "held to answer" referred to being held over for trial. Id. at 910; see Ex parte Wilson, 114 U.S. 417, 5 S.Ct. 935, 29 L.Ed. 89 (1885). It is immaterial that the court there did not dismiss the indictment until after sentencing. The determining factor in the withdrawal of the opinion on rehearing was that the prosecution had been initiated by indictment, United States v. Ramirez, supra, 556 F.2d at 925, as it was here. Because Ramirez is therefore indistinguishable, we must reject Amidon's claimed constitutional error based on the indictment clause.

Amidon's second claimed constitutional error is that sentencing under the YCA irrationally discriminates against those between the ages of 18 and 26, in violation of the equal protection and due process clauses. We do not reach this contention because we conclude that Congress has clearly evidenced its intention in the Federal Magistrates Act of 1979 that a youth may not be sentenced to a term of confinement under the YCA that exceeds the statutory maximum that an adult could receive.

Amidon is correct when he asserts that it is inequitable and unjust to permit imposition of the six year sentence under the YCA for offenses for which an adult, or a juvenile, 1 could be sentenced to just six months. Congress has noted this inequity and recently has taken steps to remedy it. Federal Magistrate Act of 1979, Pub.L. No. 96-82, 18 U.S.C. § 3401 (Supp. 1980). It is clear that, in doing so, Congress has rejected the earlier conclusions of this court and others that the rehabilitative purposes underlying the YCA justify a longer confinement, 2 see, e. g., United States v. Leming, 532 F.2d 647 (9th Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 424 U.S. 978, 96 S.Ct. 1485, 47 L.Ed.2d 749 (1976); Harvin v. United States, 445 F.2d 675, 682 (D.C. Cir. 1971) (en banc).

This rejection is well warranted. As the government conceded at oral argument, the original rehabilitative purposes of the YCA have generally been abandoned. See Partridge, Chaset and Eldridge, "The Sentencing Options of Federal District Judges," 84 F.R.D. 175, 200 (1980). 3 The Bureau of Prisons currently assigns young offenders to exactly the same institutions as the older ones, under a policy of assigning each offender to an institution of the lowest security level consistent with adequate supervision. Id. at 201-02. Those sentenced under the YCA receive the same educational and vocational training opportunities as do adults. id. at 201-02. Furthermore, the Parole Commission generally uses the...

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  • U.S. v. Won Cho
    • United States
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    ...Sec. 531, at 159 (2d ed. 1982). Many question the continuing vitality of this rehabilitative ideal. See, e.g., United States v. Amidon, 627 F.2d 1023, 1026 (9th Cir.1980) (the Federal Magistrates Act of 1979 indicates that "the original rehabilitative purposes of the YCA have generally been......
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    ...the case was rendered while the federal law was in the process of transition as discussed in the 1979 change in United States v. Amidon, 627 F.2d 1023, 1026 (9th Cir.1980) (footnotes Amidon's second claimed constitutional error is that sentencing under the YCA [Youth Corrections Act] irrati......
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    ...fix an inflexible period of incarceration, instead of merely setting a maximum term to be served in accordance with United States v. Amidon, 627 F.2d 1023 (9th Cir. 1980).4 Section 5023(a) states that:Nothing in (the YCA) shall limit or affect the power of any court to suspend the impositio......
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    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 11-6, June 1982
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