Monday, December 02, 2013

Supervised Offender’s Waiver of Legal Representation at Revocation Hearing Sufficient under Totality of the Circumstances Standard

In United States v. Manuel, No. 12-4258 (3d Cir., Oct. 17, 2013), Defendant pled guilty to conspiracy as well as the substantive offense of mail fraud, involving a scheme to defraud investors in Defendant’s non-existent financial assistance programs. He was sentenced to 71-months imprisonment and three years supervised release. While on supervised release, Defendant committed several infractions, including illegal drug use and unauthorized employment. During his second supervision revocation hearing, Defendant petitioned the court to allow him to represent himself. The court conducted a colloquy with Defendant and ultimately granted his request. The court also granted Defendant several continuances to allow him to obtain additional documents and witnesses. Defendant ultimately presented witness testimony from his substance abuse therapist and employees from a halfway house to which he had been sanctioned. Nonetheless, the court revoked his supervised release term and sentenced him to two, consecutive 16-month jail terms. Defendant appealed this revocation sentence, arguing that the court’s colloquy was insufficient under United States v. Peppers, 302 F.3d 120 (3d Cir. 2002), and therefore his waiver of legal representation was ineffective.

The Third Circuit disagreed, interpreting Peppers to apply only to a defendant’s right to self-representation in a criminal prosecution, not a supervision revocation hearing. The court recognized that the case cited by Defendant, Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972), specifically states that the "full panoply of rights" afforded a defendant in a criminal prosecution do not apply to a supervision revocation proceeding. Therefore, as the Supreme Court ruled in Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778 (1973), there is not constitutional right to legal representation at a supervision revocation hearing. Instead, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1 governs due process in the context of a supervision revocation hearing. Consequently, the court was not required to perform the 14-point inquiry enunciated in Peppers. The Third Circuit concluded that a defendant has been afforded due process in accordance with Rule 32.1 if his waiver of rights is knowing and voluntary under a totality of the circumstances standard. The Third Circuit interpreted this standard to require only that the court inform the defendant of the charges against him, the evidence supporting those charges, the penalties he faces, the rights he possesses and the consequences of relinquishing those rights. As the totality of the circumstances indicated that Defendant had knowingly and voluntarily waived legal representation, the district court did not err.

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