United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S POST-CONVICTION MOTION TO
S. Lasnik United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on defendant Balvino Macias
Teran's pro se, postconviction “Motion to
Dismiss Indictment Because United States District Court
Lacked Jurisdiction to Try this Case.” Dkt. # 124. The
Court has considered the parties' memoranda, the
exhibits, and the remainder of the record. For the reasons
set forth below, the Court concludes that it lacks authority
to consider the merits of defendant's motion as it is
currently framed. The motion, Dkt. # 124, is DENIED without
prejudice to defendant filing a petition under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence.
December 2016, a grand jury charged defendant and two
co-defendants with one count of conspiracy to distribute
controlled substances (Count 1) and one count of distribution
of a controlled substance (Count 2). Dkt. # 11. Defendant
entered a plea of guilty to Count 1, but to a lesser included
offense of that charged in the indictment, in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846. Dkt. #
86 ¶ 1. In that plea agreement, defendant waived both
his right to appeal his conviction and sentence and his right
to collaterally attack his conviction and sentence, except on
the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Id. ¶ 15. On October 20, 2017, the Court
sentenced defendant to a prison term of seventy-two months,
plus four years of supervised release. Dkt. # 118.
March 2018, defendant filed this motion, arguing that the
Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his criminal
case. Specifically, defendant asserts that 21 U.S.C. §
841 was adopted on the basis of the expanded federal powers
that accompanied President Franklin Roosevelt's 1933
declaration of a national emergency. Dkt. # 124 at 4-5.
According to defendant, the National Emergencies Act, 50
U.S.C. § 1601 (1976), which curbed federal authority
arising from prior declarations of national emergencies,
effectively limited § 841's reach to the District of
Columbia and federal territories. Id. On these
grounds, defendant requests that the Court dismiss the
indictment and release him from custody. Prior to this
motion, defendant had not filed a petition under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 or any other collateral attack on his conviction
government argues that the Court lacks authority to consider
defendant's motion as it is currently framed, and
suggests that § 2255 provides a proper basis for
defendant's challenge to the Court's subject matter
jurisdiction. Dkt. # 127. According to the government, the
Court must either deny defendant's motion or notify
defendant that the Court intends to recharacterize his motion
as a § 2255 petition.
judgment of conviction that includes a sentence of
imprisonment constitutes a final judgment and may not be
modified by a district court except in limited
circumstances.” Dillon v. United States, 560
U.S. 817, 824 (2010) (alterations and quotation marks
omitted). Section 3582(c) of Title 18 U.S.C. sets forth
narrow exceptions to this rule of finality. Apart from those
exceptions, the Court may modify a term of imprisonment only
“to the extent otherwise expressly permitted by statute
or by Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal
Procedure.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B); see
also United States v. Barragan-Mendoza, 174 F.3d 1024,
1028 (9th Cir. 1999) (“[D]istrict courts do not have
‘inherent authority' to reconsider sentencing
orders.”); United States v. Mendoza, 118 F.3d
707, 709 (“A district court does not have inherent
authority to modify a previously imposed sentence; it may do
so only pursuant to statutory authorization.”).
Court lacks statutory authorization to consider the merits of
defendant's motion as it is currently framed. None of the
exceptions found at 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) applies, and
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35 does not allow for the
relief defendant requests. Nor can defendant avail himself of
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b), which normally
governs a motion to dismiss an indictment, because his case
is no longer “pending.” See Fed. R.
Crim. P. 12(b)(2). Defendant points to no statutory authority
that would allow the Court to adjudicate his motion.
Court is persuaded that the proper basis for defendant's
motion is 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Pursuant to § 2255, a
district court may vacate, set aside, or correct a federal
prisoner's sentence if that court finds “the
sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws
of the United States, or that the court was without
jurisdiction to impose such sentence.” § 2255(a).
A motion that is in substance a habeas petition should be
treated as one. See Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S.
524, 531 (2005) (construing a filing labeled a Rule 60(b)
motion as a habeas petition because the motion asserted a
federal basis for relief from a conviction); Castro v.
United States, 540 U.S. 375, 377 (2003) (“Under a
longstanding practice, a court sometimes treats as a request
for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 a motion that
a pro se federal prisoner has labeled
differently.”). Defendant's motion to dismiss the
indictment is in substance a § 2255 petition, and should
be treated accordingly.
Court may not, however, unilaterally construe defendant's
motion as a request for relief under § 2255. As the
Supreme Court recognized, a district court's
“recharacterization” of a motion as one brought
under § 2255 “can have serious consequences for
the prisoner, for it subjects any subsequent motion under
§ 2255 to the restrictive conditions that federal law
imposes upon a ‘second or successive' (but not upon
a first) federal habeas motion.” Castro, 540
U.S. at 377; see also United States v. Seesing, 234
F.3d 456, 464 (9th Cir. 2000), as amended (Jan. 29,
2001). Accordingly, a district court may not recharacterize
a pro se motion as a request for relief under §
2255 unless the court first “notif[ies] the pro
se litigant that it intends to recharacterize the
pleading, warn[s] the litigant that this recharacterization
means that any subsequent § 2255 motion will be subject
to the restrictions on ‘second or successive'
motions, and provide[s] the litigant an opportunity to
withdraw the motion or amend it so that it contains all the
§ 2255 claims he believes he has.”
Castro, 540 U.S. at 383.
part, defendant requests additional time to submit a §
2255 petition with these and additional claims should the
Court determine that his claims are properly brought under
§ 2255. Given the Court's foregoing conclusion that
plaintiffs claims do indeed belong in a motion under §
2255, the Court will deny defendant's motion without
prejudice to him including his jurisdictional arguments in a
subsequent § 2255 petition. The Court notes that
defendant remains well within the one-year limitations period
for filing a petition under § 2255.
foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that 28 U.S.C. §
2255 is the proper basis for defendant's motion.
Defendant's motion, Dkt. # 124, is DENIED without
prejudice to him including his claims in a petition filed
under § 2255. The ...