Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Serrapio: Affirming modification of probation for defendant convicted of threatening to kill the President

In U.S. v. Serrapio, No. 12-14897 (June 18, 2014), the Court affirmed the constitutionality of a modification of conditions of probation imposed on a defendant convicted of having threatened to shoot the President of the United States. The district court originally imposed a sentence of probation that included four months home confinement with electronic monitoring. Serrapio did not violate the conditions of probation, but was quoted in a news article stating that his ordeal had been “pretty funny” and that the attendance at his rock band’s show benefitted because people came out to see the kid who threatened to kill the President. The district court thereupon modified the terms of probation to include 45 days in a halfway house, and a year of home confinement with electronic monitoring. On appeal, the Court held that the propriety of the new 45 days of halfway house condition was moot, because Serrapio had already served this term. Turning to the increase in the home confinement from four months to one year, the Court held that because Serrapio had not finished this term his appeal of this was not moot because theoretically he could ask for a refund of the cost of electronic monitoring. The Court held that the modification of probation was valid, because the statute authorized the modification. The modification did not violate Double Jeopardy, because Serrapio did not have a legitimate expectation of finality in the 4-month term, since the district court had the authority to modify it. The Court rejected the argument that the modification of probation violated Serrapio’s First Amendment rights because it was based on statements he had made. The Court noted that the statements suggested that Serrapio “did not really understand the gravity of his offense.”