Alabama v. Bozeman, 533 U.S. 146 (2001)

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certiorari to the supreme court of alabama

No. 00-492. Argued April 17, 2001—Decided June 11, 2001

The Interstate Agreement on Detainers (Agreement) creates uniform procedures for lodging and executing a detainer, i. e., a legal order that requires a State to hold a currently imprisoned individual when he has finished serving his sentence so that he may be tried by a different State for a different crime. As relevant here, the Agreement provides that a State that obtains a prisoner for purposes of trial must try him within 120 days of his arrival, Art. IV(c), and if it returns him to his "original place of imprisonment" prior to that trial, charges "shall" be dismissed with prejudice, Art. IV(e). While respondent Bozeman was serving a federal prison sentence in Florida, the Covington County, Alabama, district attorney sought temporary custody of Bozeman to arraign him on firearms charges and to appoint counsel. When taken to Covington County, Bozeman spent the night in the county jail, appeared in local court the next morning, obtained local counsel, and was returned to federal prison that evening. About one month later, he was brought back to the county for trial. Bozeman's counsel moved to dismiss the state charges on the ground that, because Bozeman had been "returned to the original place of imprisonment" (namely, the federal prison) "prior to" "trial" on state charges being "had," in violation of Article IV(e), the local court had to dismiss the charges with prejudice in light of Art. IV(e)'s command as to remedy. Bozeman was convicted, and an appeals court affirmed. The State Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Agreement's literal language controlled and required dismissal of the state charges.

Held: The literal language of Article IV(e) bars any further criminal proceedings when a defendant is returned to the original place of imprisonment before trial. Pp. 152-157.

(a) Alabama claims that Article IV(e)'s basic purpose is to prevent shuttling that would interrupt a prisoner's rehabilitation and that, since the one-day interruption here did not interrupt rehabilitation significantly, any violation is "technical," "harmless," or "de minimis." However, the Agreement's language militates against an implicit exception, for it is absolute, as the word "shall" is ordinarily the language of command. Anderson v. Yungkau, 329 U. S. 482, 485. Moreover, the Agreement makes no distinction among different kinds of arrivals, e. g., exempting those that are followed by return within a short, speci-

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