Peguero v. United States
526 U.S. 23

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 1998

Syllabus

PEGUERO v. UNITED STATES

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

No. 97-9217. Argued January 11, 1999-Decided March 2,1999

Mter petitioner pleaded guilty to federal drug charges, the District Court sentenced him to prison, but failed to inform him at the sentencing hearing of his right to appeal the sentence. In a later motion for habeas relief, petitioner alleged that that failure violated the express terms of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(a)(2). The District Court rejected petitioner's claim that any Rule 32 violation, without regard to prejudice, is enough to vacate a sentence, and held that petitioner was not entitled to relief because he actually knew of his right to appeal when he was sentenced. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the Rule 32(a)(2) violation was subject to harmless-error review and that, because petitioner was aware of his right to appeal, the Rule's purpose had been served.

Held: A district court's failure to advise a defendant of his right to appeal does not entitle him to habeas relief if he knew of his right and hence suffered no prejudice from the omission. Because Rule 32(a)(2) requires a district court to advise a defendant of any right to appeal his sentence, it is undisputed that the court's failure to give the required advice was error in this case. However, as a general rule, a court's failure to give a defendant advice required by the Federal Rules is a sufficient basis for collateral relief only when the defendant is prejudiced by the error. See, e. g., United States v. Timmreck, 441 U. S. 780. Because petitioner had full knowledge of his right to appeal, the fact that the court violated the Rule, standing alone, does not entitle him to collateral relief. The narrow holding in Rodriquez v. United States, 395 U. S. 327-that when counsel fails to file a requested appeal, a defendant is entitled to resentencing and an appeal without showing that his appeal would likely have merit-is not implicated here because the District Court found that petitioner did not request an appeal. Pp.26-30.

142 F.3d 430, affirmed.

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. O'CONNOR, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which STEVENS, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined, post, p. 30.


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Daniel Isaiah Siegel argued the cause for petitioner.

With him on the briefs was James Vincent Wade.

Roy W McLeese III argued the cause for the United States. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Waxman, Assistant Attorney General Robinson, Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben, and Louis M. Fischer. *

JUSTICE KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court. We granted certiorari to resolve a Circuit conflict over whether a district court's failure to advise a defendant of his right to appeal as required by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides a basis for collateral relief even when the defendant was aware of his right to appeal when the trial court omitted to give the advice. Compare, e. g., Thompson v. United States, 111 F.3d 109 (CAll 1997) (defendant entitled to relief even if he knew of his right to appeal through other sources); United States v. Sanchez, 88 F.3d 1243 (CADC 1996) (same); Reid v. United States, 69 F.3d 688 (CA2 1995) (per curiam) (same), with Tress v. United States, 87 F.3d 188 (CA7 1996) (defendant not entitled to relief if he knew of his right to appeal); United States v. Drummond, 903 F.2d 1171 (CA8 1990) (same). We hold that a district court's failure to advise the defendant of his right to appeal does not entitle him to habeas relief if he knew of his right and hence suffered no prejudice from the omission.

Petitioner Manuel Peguero pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U. S. C. § 846. At a sentencing hearing held on April 22, 1992, the District Court sentenced petitioner to 274 months' imprisonment. The court did not inform petitioner of his right to appeal his sentence.

In December 1996, more than four years after he was sentenced, petitioner filed a pro se motion to set aside his

*John J. Gibbons, Lawrence S. Lustberg, Kevin McNulty, and David M. Porter filed a brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as amicus curiae urging reversal.


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Full Text of Opinion

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