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Supervised release revoked for admission of meth distribution

Where a defendant who was being held at a county jail admitted to distributing methamphetamine during questioning by his parole officer, it did not violate the Fifth Amendment to use that admission to prove that the defendant violated his supervised release, and no additional corroboration was required.


Joshua Wayne Riley was convicted on federal drug-related charges in 2013. He was released from prison in 2016 and began serving a five-year term of supervised release.

On March 16, 2018, police found methamphetamine while searching Riley’s car during a traffic stop. Riley was charged with possession of a controlled substance and, sometime thereafter, he was arrested for violating the terms of his supervised release.

Riley’s probation officer questioned Riley while he was being held at the county jail without reading him his Miranda rights. Riley admitted that he had been using methamphetamine on a daily basis for several months and that, during the last month, he had been distributing an ounce of methamphetamine per week. Riley signed a written statement confirming his statements.

At the revocation hearing, Riley objected to the use of his statements to the probation officer, claiming that the failure to give him Miranda warnings required suppression of his oral and written statements. The district court overruled his objection and, relying on the admission, determined that Riley violated the conditions of his supervised release by distributing a controlled substance, a Grade A violation. The court sentenced Riley to 20 months’ imprisonment and this appeal followed.


Even with regard to statements made under circumstances that would otherwise be viewed as coercive, the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination is violated only if those statements are used in a criminal trial.

Like parole and probation revocation proceedings, supervised release revocation hearings are not criminal proceedings. Like parole and probation revocation, a supervised release revocation deprives an individual, not of the absolute liberty to which every citizen is entitled, but only of the conditional liberty properly dependent on observance of special restrictions. As such, the full panoply of rights due to a defendant in a criminal proceeding does not apply to supervised release revocation hearings.

Similarly, the requirement that an out-of-court admission of criminal activity be corroborated is a rule applicable to criminal proceedings. In civil cases, such statements are generally admissible as admissions against penal interest without additional corroboration.

As discussed above, supervised release revocation proceedings are not criminal proceedings, and a determination that a person violated the terms of supervised release does not amount to a conviction for a criminal offense. Thus, the very description of the corroboration rule—an uncorroborated extrajudicial confession cannot alone support a criminal conviction—demonstrates that the rule has no application to supervised release revocation proceedings, where courts are permitted to consider evidence including letters, affidavits, and other material that would not be admissible in an adversary criminal trial.

Moreover, if the goals of supervised release are to be met, it is critical that the defendant cooperate with his probation officer and comply with the conditions of supervised release, including the standard condition to provide truthful information to his probation officer. Prohibiting revocation without corroboration of a defendant’s statements would undermine the requirement for truthfulness and unduly tie the hands of the supervising officer.

Accordingly, the government was not required to present evidence corroborating Riley’s admissions to his probation officer and the district court did not err in relying on Riley’s admissions to conclude that Riley committed a Grade A violation by distributing methamphetamine. The admissions alone were sufficient to support the district court’s conclusions.


United States v. Riley, Case No. 18-4783, April 3, 2019. 4th Cir. (Traxler), Appeal from WDVA at Harrisonburg (Urbanski). Lisa M. Lorish for Appellant; Grayson A. Hoffman for Appellee. VLW 019-2-103. 14 pp.

VLW 019-2-103

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