Gozlon-Perez v. United States
Annotate this Case
498 U.S. 395 (1991)
U.S. Supreme Court
Gozlon-Perez v. United States, 498 U.S. 395 (1991)
Gozlon-Perez v. United States
Argued Oct. 30, 1990
Decided Feb. 19, 1991
498 U.S. 395
The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (Reform Act) eliminated special parole, supervised by the United States Parole Commission, for drug offenders after incarceration and established conditions for a new system of supervised release to be overseen by the sentencing court. However, the supervised release provisions' effective date was delayed until November 1, 1987. In October, 1986, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 (ADAA) was enacted, which, in § 1002, sets minimum and maximum sentences and mandates terms of supervised release for certain drug offenses. Some ADAA sections, but not § 1002, specified a November 1, 1987, effective date. Petitioner was convicted of, inter alia, offenses to which § 1002 applies that occurred after the ADAA's enactment but before the effective date of the Reform Act's supervised release provisions. The District Court sentenced him to concurrent prison terms and imposed concurrent 5-year terms of special parole for each offense, ruling that Congress intended that parole be imposed in cases where the offenses were committed in the interim between the ADAA's enactment and November 1, 1987, and rejecting petitioner's argument that no post-confinement supervision was appropriate for offenses committed during that time. The Court of Appeals vacated the sentence, holding that § 1002's plain language required that petitioner be sentenced to terms of supervised release, rather than special parole.
Held: Supervised release applies for all drug offenses in the categories specified by ADAA § 1002 that were committed after the ADAA was enacted but before November 1, 1987. Pp. 498 U. S. 404-410.
(a) Section 1002 contains no provision for its effective date, and therefore took effect on its date of enactment. There is no clear direction to the contrary by Congress, whose silence here contrasts with its expression of effective dates for other ADAA sections. Nothing about Congress' apparent purpose in enacting § 1002 -- to rectify an error in the Controlled Substances Act that would have required supervised release for small- but not big-time drug offenders -- rebuts this presumption. In arguing that Congress must have intended to postpone all of § 1002's penalty provisions in order to avoid creating a conflict with §§ 1007(a) and 10O9(a) -- which, effective November 1, 1987, authorize shorter sentences for certain offenders who cooperate with the Government -- since
§ 1002's mandatory minimum sentence requirements otherwise would eliminate the possibility of such shorter sentences for offenses committed during the interim period, petitioner is mistaken. Congress corrected these problems in December, 1987, by permitting departures from mandatory minimum sentences for cooperating defendants whose offenses were committed before November 1, 1987, a move that can be explained only if Congress believed that the mandatory penalties had gone into effect as of the ADAA's date of enactment. Also rejected is petitioner's argument that the delayed implementation of § 1004, which provides that all references to "special parole" in the Controlled Substances Act were to be changed to "supervised release," delayed the effect of § 1002's supervised release provisions. Since a specific provision controls over one of a more general application and § 1002 made the change from special parole to supervised release independent of § 1004, § 1004's general change-over provision does not apply. Moreover, it is unlikely that Congress intended to delay some, but not all, of § 1002's provisions. Pp. 498 U. S. 404-407.
(b) That the term "supervised release" was defined in the enacted, but not yet effective, Reform Act, rather than in the ADAA, does not mean that the term as used in the ADAA had no significance before November 1, 1987. It is not uncommon to refer to other, related legislative enactments when interpreting specialized statutory terms, a device whose utility is not defeated by the fact that the Act referred to is not yet effective. At the time the ADAA was enacted, the Reform Act had all of the weight and dignity of a deliberate, considered enactment of Congress, presented to and approved by the President, and it is reasonable to assume that Congress, when it passed the ADAA, knew that the full definition of supervised release existed in the Reform Act and legislated with reference to it. It is also possible that Congress, knowing that it was unlikely that anyone committing a drug offense during the interim period would be released from custody before November 1 1987, concluded that, in all such cases, the Reform Act would be effective at the time a district court began its duties under the supervised release program. Section 1002's plain language also forecloses the possibility that the rules governing special parole should apply to crimes committed in .the interim period. Pp. 498 U. S. 407-409.
(c) The absence of an effective date provision in § 1002 does not create an ambiguity calling for the invocation of the rule of lenity. While § 1002 may have created some minor inconsistencies with other statutory provisions, its post-confinement supervision provisions are not ambiguous. Pp. 498 U. S. 409-410.
894 F.2d 1402 (CA3 1990), affirmed.
KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
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