Carchmer v. Nash
473 U.S. 716 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

Carchmer v. Nash

No. 84-776

Argued April 22, 1985

Decided July 2, 1985

473 U.S. 716


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 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.

Page 473 U. S. 717

Held: Article III does not apply to detainers based on probation violation charges. Pp. 473 U. S. 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. 473 U. S. 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. 473 U. S. 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. 473 U. S. 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. 473 U. S. 734.

Page 473 U. S. 718

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