United States v. Brown, No. 100

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtRUTLEDGE
Citation68 S.Ct. 376,92 L.Ed. 442,333 U.S. 18
PartiesUNITED STATES v. BROWN
Decision Date02 February 1948
Docket NumberNo. 100

333 U.S. 18
68 S.Ct. 376
92 L.Ed. 442
UNITED STATES

v.

BROWN.

No. 100.
Argued Jan. 5, 6, 1948.
Decided Feb. 2, 1948.
Rehearing Denied March 8, 1948.

Mr. Robert W. Ginnane, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Elmo B. Hunter, of Kansas City, Mo., for respondent.

Mr. Justice RUTLEDGE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Federal Escape Act requires that a sentence for escape or attempt to escape 'shall begin upon the expiration of, or upon legal release from, any sentence under which such person is held at the time of' the escape or

Page 19

attempt. 1 The narrow question is whether the Act requires that a sentence for attempt to escape shall begin upon the expiration of the particular sentence being served when the attempt occurs or at the expiration of the aggregate term of consecutive sentences then in effect, of which the one being served is the first.

The facts are these. Respondent was charged under two indictments in the District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. One contained two counts, the first charging conspiracy to escape, the second attempt to escape. The other indictment was for violation of the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act. 41 Stat. 324, 59 Stat. 536, 18 U.S.C.A. § 408. Respondent pleaded guilty to all three charges.

Page 20

On October 26, 1945, he was sentenced as follows: under the first indictment charging the escape offenses, imprisonment for one year on the second count, and for two years on the first count, the sentences to run consecutively in that order; under the motor vehicle theft indictment, imprisonment for two years, to run consecutively to the other two. Thus the aggregate of the three consecutive sentences was five years.

On November 2, 1945, respondent was serving the one year term of the first sentence as ordered by the court. On that date he was being transported in custody of a United States marshal from an Arkansas jail to Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas.2 During the journey's progress through Missouri he attempted to escape. This resulted in another indictment, in the Western District of Missouri, to which also respondent pleaded guilty. The District Court sentenced him to imprisonment for five years, the term 'to begin at the expiration of any sentence he is now serving, or to be served which was imposed prior to this date * * *.'

Respondent filed a motion to correct this last sentence. He contended that at the time of the last attempt he was being 'held,' within the meaning of the last sentence of the Federal Escape Act, only under the one-year sentence pronounced in the Western District of Arkansas, and that the Act required the five-year sentence under the indictment returned in Missouri to commence at the expiration of that one-year term.

The District Court overruled the motion. It held that under the statute the sentencing court could order that the sentence begin to run after the service of any one or all of respondent's three prior sentences. 67 F.Supp. 116. The Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed

Page 21

the judgment. Relying on the canon of strict construction of criminal statutes, it equated the statutory word 'held' to 'serving,' and concluded that a sentence for escape or attempt to escape must begin at the expiration of the particular sentence which the prisoner is serving at the time the escape or attempt occurs. Accordingly the court remanded the cause to the District Court with directions to correct the five-year sentence so that it would begin upon expiration of or legal release from the one-year sentence. 160 F.2d 310. We granted certiorari because of the importance of the question in the administration of the Federal Escape Act.

Although prison breach or other escape by prisoners from custody was a crime under the common law,3 there was no federal statute proscribing such conduct prior to the enactment of the original Federal Escape Act in 1930, 46 Stat. 327. That Act dealt only with escape or attempted escape while under sentence. It was enacted as part of a program sponsored by the Attorney General for the reorganization and improved administration of the federal penal system. H.R.Rep.No. 106, 71st Cong. 2d Sess. The Act took its present form in 1935, when it was broadened at the Attorney General's request4 to cover escape while in custody on a federal charge prior to conviction.5

Page 22

The legislation reflects an unmistakable intention to provide punishment for escape or attempted escape to be superimposed upon the punishment meted out for previous offenses. This appears from the face of the statute itself. It first provides that persons escaping or attempting to escape while in custody, whether before or after conviction, shall be guilty of an offense. Then follow provisions for determining whether the offense shall be a felony or a misdemeanor, with corresponding prescriptions of penalties.

At this point the statute had no need tog o further if the intention had been merely to leave to the court's discretion whether the penalties, within the limits prescribed, should run concurrently or consecutively in accordance with the generally prevailing practice. On that assumption the statute was complete, without addition of the last two sentences. But in that form the Act would have left the court with discretion to make the sentence run concurrently or consecutively with the other sentences previously in effect or put into effect in the case or cases pending when the escape occurred.

Precisely to avoid this more was added, in the explicit provisions that 'the sentence imposed hereunder shall be in addition to and independent of any sentence imposed in the case in connection with which such person is held in custody at the time of such escape or attempt to escape. If such person be under sentence at the time of such offense, the sentence imposed hereunder shall begin upon the expiration of, or upon legal release from, any sentence under which such person is held at the time of such escape or attempt to escape.' (Emphasis added.)

These sentences foreclosed, and were intended to foreclose, what the earlier portions of the Act had left open, namely, the court's power to make the escape sentence run concurrently with the other sentences.6 Whether the

Page 23

escape was before or after conviction, additional punishment was made mandatory, in the one...

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239 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Moore, No. 78-1594
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 2, 1980
    ...99 L.Ed. 905, 910 (1955); Kordel v. United States, 335 U.S. 345, 349, 69 S.Ct. 106, 109, 93 L.Ed. 52, 56 (1948); United States v. Brown, 333 U.S. 18, 25, 68 S.Ct. 376, 380, 92 L.Ed. 442, 448 (1948). 121 United States v. Gaskin, 320 U.S. 527, 529-530, 64 S.Ct. 318, 319, 88 L.Ed. 287, 290 (19......
  • Ross v. Federal Highway Admin., Civil Action No. 97-2132-GTV.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • July 17, 1997
    ...See United States v. Ron Pair Enters., Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 241-42, 109 S.Ct. 1026, 1030-31, 103 L.Ed.2d 290 (1989) United States v. Brown, 333 U.S. 18, 27, 68 S.Ct. 376, 381, 92 L.Ed. 442 The language of STURAA § 149(i) and ISTEA § 1105(a)(7) communicates Congress' clear intent that demonst......
  • People v. Anderson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • October 13, 1987
    ...Page 610 whole remaining language.' " (People v. Hallner (1954) 43 Cal.2d 715, 721, 277 P.2d 393, quoting United States v. Brown (1948) 333 U.S. 18, 25-26, 68 S.Ct. 376, 380, 92 L.Ed. 442.) Or in the words of Justice Black, writing for the court in United States v. Raynor (1938) 302 U.S. 54......
  • People v. Rome, Cr. 12783
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 13, 1984
    ...of the whole remaining language.' " (People v. Hallner (1954) 43 Cal.2d 715, 721, 277 P.2d 393, quoting from United States v. Brown (1948) 333 U.S. 18, 25-26, 68 S.Ct. 376, 380, 92 L.Ed. 442, 448.) The rule should not be invoked to abort a manifest and reasonable legislative purpose. (Peopl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
238 cases
  • U.S. v. Moore, No. 78-1594
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 2, 1980
    ...99 L.Ed. 905, 910 (1955); Kordel v. United States, 335 U.S. 345, 349, 69 S.Ct. 106, 109, 93 L.Ed. 52, 56 (1948); United States v. Brown, 333 U.S. 18, 25, 68 S.Ct. 376, 380, 92 L.Ed. 442, 448 (1948). 121 United States v. Gaskin, 320 U.S. 527, 529-530, 64 S.Ct. 318, 319, 88 L.Ed. 287, 290 (19......
  • Ross v. Federal Highway Admin., Civil Action No. 97-2132-GTV.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • July 17, 1997
    ...See United States v. Ron Pair Enters., Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 241-42, 109 S.Ct. 1026, 1030-31, 103 L.Ed.2d 290 (1989) United States v. Brown, 333 U.S. 18, 27, 68 S.Ct. 376, 381, 92 L.Ed. 442 The language of STURAA § 149(i) and ISTEA § 1105(a)(7) communicates Congress' clear intent that demonst......
  • People v. Anderson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • October 13, 1987
    ...Page 610 whole remaining language.' " (People v. Hallner (1954) 43 Cal.2d 715, 721, 277 P.2d 393, quoting United States v. Brown (1948) 333 U.S. 18, 25-26, 68 S.Ct. 376, 380, 92 L.Ed. 442.) Or in the words of Justice Black, writing for the court in United States v. Raynor (1938) 302 U.S. 54......
  • People v. Rome, Cr. 12783
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 13, 1984
    ...of the whole remaining language.' " (People v. Hallner (1954) 43 Cal.2d 715, 721, 277 P.2d 393, quoting from United States v. Brown (1948) 333 U.S. 18, 25-26, 68 S.Ct. 376, 380, 92 L.Ed. 442, 448.) The rule should not be invoked to abort a manifest and reasonable legislative purpose. (Peopl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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