Sunday, September 09, 2007

Confessions Obtained During Delay in Presentment Admissible if Voluntary under Section 3501(c) / Court May Not Delegate Restitution Payment

In U.S. v. Corley, (No. 04-4716) (Aug. 31, 2007), the Third Circuit held that under §3501(c), confessions taken outside of the six-hour “safe harbor” window may only be excluded if involuntary.

Corley was arrested at approximately 8:00 in the morning. Because the arrest involved an altercation, he was taken to a hospital at 11:45 a.m. By 3:30 p.m., he was taken to FBI offices for interrogation. At 5:07 p.m., he signed a waiver of rights form and confessed to a robbery. When asked to write his confession, Corley indicated that he was tired and asked if they could finish the next day. They resumed at 10:30 the next morning and Corley signed a written statement. At 1:30 p.m. on the second day, he was brought before a federal magistrate judge. Corley later filed a motion to suppress the statements pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(a) due to unnecessary delay in presentment. The motion was denied and Corley was convicted following a jury trial. At sentencing, the district court ordered that Mr. Corley “shall make restitution and fine payments from any wages he may earn in prison in accordance with the Bureau of Prisons Inmate Financial Responsibility Program.” The Third Circuit upheld denial of the motion, but found the restitution order improper.

Section 3501 was written, in part, in response to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(a), – requiring an arrestee to be brought before a magistrate “without unnecessary delay”– and the Supreme Court’s “McNabb-Mallory” rule which requires exclusion of statements taken prior to presentment in cases of unnecessary delay. Section 3501 states that (a) confessions are admissible if voluntary and (b) the voluntariness of a confession is determined by all of the surrounding circumstances including the time elapsed between arrest and arraignment. Subsection (c) states: “a confession made . . . while such person was under arrest. . ., shall not be inadmissible solely because of delay in bringing such person before a magistrate judge. . . if such confession is found by the trial judge to have been made voluntarily . . . and if such confession was made or given by such person within six hours immediately following his arrest or other detention.”

The issue on appeal was whether, as Mr. Corley argued, the confession given outside of the (§3501(c)) six-hour window may be excluded due to unnecessary delay, regardless of any voluntariness finding. The government argued that a statement outside of the six-hour window, as any other statement, must still be involuntary to be excluded. The only difference outside of the six-hour window being that delay could then be the sole cause of involuntariness.

The Third Circuit agreed and followed its decision in Government of the Virgin Islands v. Gereau, 502 F. 2d 914 (3d Cir. 1974), which found that §3501(c) simply narrowed the meaning of “unnecessary delay” by restricting it to delays that contribute to making the statement involuntary. The majority did recognize that the (Second and Ninth Circuit) precedent upon which Gereau relied has been repudiated, “which may be a reason to revisit Gereau en banc,” and conceded, “were we writing on a clean slate,” they might have sided with the dissent.

Judge Sloviter authored the dissent, finding “irrefutable” Mr. Corley’s argument that if a confession only had to be voluntary, despite unnecessary delay in presentation, subsection (c) would be meaningless. Given the majority opinion rests on the short reasoning of Gereau and the circuit split on this issue, Judge Sloviter also suggested the case was appropriate for en banc review.

Finally, the Circuit found that the district court impermissibly delegated to the BOP its duty under the MVRA, (18 U.S.C. §3664(f)), to set out the manner and schedule of restitution payments and remanded for the district court to set a restitution schedule.

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