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United States v. Tran

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 1, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
TONY D. TRAN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN W. BROOMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on Defendant's motion to suppress. (Doc. 538.) The motion is fully briefed and is ripe for decision. (Docs. 540, 541.) For the reasons stated herein, the motion to suppress (Doc. 538) is DENIED.

         I. Background

         In 2008, Defendant pled guilty to two counts of a superseding indictment charging unlawful possession with intent to distribute the controlled substance methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), and unlawful possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. (Docs. 312, 313.) He was sentenced by the Hon. Wesley E. Brown to a controlling term of 78 months imprisonment, to be followed by four years of supervised release. (Doc. 394.)

         On October 19, 2018, Defendant was arrested for an alleged violation of the terms of his supervised release. A Violation Report by the United States Probation Office alleges that on June 19, 2018, Defendant was arrested by Lee Summit, Missouri, police officers after being found in possession of methamphetamine and related paraphernalia. (Doc. 531.) A hearing on revocation of Defendant's supervised release is set for March 4, 2019. (Doc. 539.)

         Defendant has filed a motion to suppress all evidence stemming from his seizure on June 19, 2018, and from the search of his person and vehicle on that date. He claims the police officers' actions violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. 538 at 1.) In response, the government contends the exclusionary rule does not apply to supervised release revocation hearings, such that the motion should be summarily denied. (Doc. 540). Defendant acknowledges the Supreme Court has held that the exclusionary rule does not apply to state parole revocation hearings (in Pennsylvania Bd. of Prob. & Parole v. Scott, 524 U.S. 357 (1998)), and that several circuit and district courts have similarly found the rule to be inapplicable to supervised release revocation hearings. But he contends dissimilarities between the revocation of supervised release and the parole proceedings at issue in Scott - including the imposition of a new criminal sentence upon revocation of supervised release, as opposed to reinstatement of a previously imposed sentence upon revocation of parole - warrant application of the exclusionary rule in this proceeding. Defendant notes there is no Tenth Circuit case directly on point, and he argues that other courts extending Scott to supervised release revocations “do not address these distinctions in detail.” (Doc. 541 at 4.)

         II. Discussion

         In Scott, the Supreme Court held that the exclusionary rule does not apply in state parole revocation hearings. Scott, 524 U.S. at 359. The Court noted the exclusionary rule was a judicially created means of deterring unlawful searches and seizures, and that it did not proscribe the introduction of illegally seized evidence in all proceedings but “only in contexts ‘where its remedial objectives are thought most efficaciously served.'” Id. at 363 (citations omitted.) “Moreover, because the rule is prudential rather than constitutionally mandated, we have held it to be applicable only where its deterrence benefits outweigh its ‘substantial social costs.'” Id. The Court noted that “[r]ecognizing these costs, we have repeatedly declined to extend the exclusionary rule to proceedings other than criminal trials.” Id.

         Applying these principles, the Supreme Court found that application of the rule to parole revocation proceedings would hinder the functioning of state parole systems, would alter the traditionally flexible and administrative nature of those proceedings, and would provide only minimal deterrence benefits. Among other things, the Court noted the “costs of excluding reliable, probative evidence are particularly high in the context of parole revocation proceedings”:

Parole is a variation on imprisonment of convicted criminals, in which the State accords a limited degree of freedom in return for the parolee's assurance that he will comply with the often strict terms and conditions of his release. In most cases, the State is willing to extend parole only because it is able to condition it upon compliance with certain requirements. The State thus has an overwhelming interest in ensuring that a parolee complies with those requirements and is returned to prison if he fails to do so. The exclusion of evidence establishing a parole violation, however, hampers the State's ability to ensure compliance with these conditions by permitting the parolee to avoid the consequences of his noncompliance. The costs of allowing a parolee to avoid the consequences of his violation are compounded by the fact that parolees (particularly those who have already committed parole violations) are more likely to commit future criminal offenses than are average citizens. Indeed, this is the very premise behind the system of close parole supervision.

Id. at 365 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted.)

         As Defendant points out, the Court also found the exclusionary rule was incompatible with the administrative nature of state parole proceedings, many of which were conducted informally by parole boards not comprised of judicial officers or lawyers. Id. at 366. But the Court additionally concluded that the deterrence benefit of the exclusionary rule in this context would not outweigh its costs, because it would have little deterrent effect upon an officer who was unaware of the subject's parole status. Even if the officer was aware of that status, the effect would be minimal because the focus of police investigation is not upon ensuring compliance with parole conditions, but upon obtaining convictions of those who commit crimes, such that officers will be adequately deterred from violating Fourth Amendment rights by application of the exclusionary rule to criminal trials. Id. at 368.

         Based on Scott and its reasoning, courts have overwhelmingly concluded the exclusionary rule does not apply to supervised release revocation proceedings in federal court. As the Seventh Circuit recently observed, a contrary ruling would “put us in direct conflict with every other court of appeals to consider the question.” United States v. Phillips, 914 F.3d 557, 560 (7th Cir. 2019) (citing United States v. Hebert, 201 F.3d 1103, 1104 (9th Cir. 2000); United States v. Armstrong, 187 F.3d 392, 394 (4th Cir. 1999); United States v. Charles, 531 F.3d 637, 640 (8th Cir. 2008); and United States v. Montez, 952 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir. 1992)). The Phillips court acknowledged that the administrative parole revocation hearings in Scott were “an imperfect fit” for supervised release revocations, but pointed out that supervised release proceedings were more similar to the Scott parole hearings than to a criminal trial, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to extend the exclusionary rule beyond criminal trials. Phillips, 914 F.3d at 559. Additionally, Phillips found, the minimal deterrence benefit noted by the Supreme Court applies with equal force to supervised release revocations: “In both instances, when the reason for revocation is the commission of a new crime, the prosecuting authority has the option to revoke a defendant's parole or supervised release rather than pursue a new case. If the Supreme Court found the added deterrence benefits insufficient to justify the exclusionary rule in a parole hearing, logic compels the conclusion that the same result must apply for supervised release.” Id.

         Here in the District of Kansas, Judge Lungstrum has twice found the exclusionary rule does not apply to supervised release revocations. United States v. Allison, No. 05-20112-JWL, 2015 WL 1608652, *2 (D. Kan. Apr. 10, 2015); United States v. Quinn, 2007 WL 437734 (D. Kan. Feb. 6, 2007). He pointed out that the Tenth Circuit previously found the exclusionary rule does not apply to parole and probation revocation proceedings, and he predicted the circuit would reach the same conclusion with respect ...


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