The US Supreme Court on Monday held that pretrial detention during a term of supervised release can toll, or pause, that term of release.
In Mont v. US the petitioner was serving a five-year term of supervised release when he was arrested on state drug trafficking charges, violating the terms of his release. The district court attempted to sentence him once the state charges were decided, but he challenged the jurisdiction.
The district court would only have jurisdiction if his term of release tolled while awaiting trial for his state crimes. Mont disputed that his imprisonment was “in connection with a conviction,” as is stipulated in 18 USC § 3624(e). The government argued, and the court held, that because Mont was credited with time served for his pretrial detention, it is “in connection with” his conviction and his supervised release tolled.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority. He cited the plain language of § 3624(e) giving a broad meaning to “in connection with,” the presence of § 3585(b)(1) which mandates sentencing credits for pretrial detention, and the statutory context of the law. The court held that “prison time is “not interchangeable” with supervised release” and that supervised release is meant to transition defendants from “prison to liberty.” Thomas wrote that supervised release is indeed a part of the punishment for a crime.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the dissent, taking issue with the backward-looking interpretation of § 3624(e) favored by the majority. She asserts that a person cannot be imprisoned “in connection with a conviction” before any conviction has occurred. Sotomayor charges the majority with “foster[ing] needless uncertainty and unfairness.”