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New York False Imprisonment Claim Revived; Administratively-Imposed PRS Term Invalid

New York False Imprisonment Claim Revived; Administratively-Imposed PRS Term Invalid

by Mark Wilson

On December 26, 2013, a New York appellate court reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s false imprisonment claim.

In 2000, Francis Moulton was sentenced to 42 months in prison on a robbery conviction. The trial court did not impose a mandatory term of post-release supervision (PRS), but the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) administratively added a five-year PRS term when Moulton was released in 2003.

In 2006, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the administrative imposition of a PRS term violates due process and is a nullity. See: Earley v. Murray, 451 F.3d 71 (2d Cir. 2006) [PLN, April 2010, p.46].

Nevertheless, DOCS did not rescind Moulton’s administratively-imposed PRS term and he was arrested and reincarcerated several times for violating the conditions of his PRS.

The New York Court of Appeals held on April 29, 2008 “that only a sentencing court has the authority to impose the PRS component of a defendant’s sentence and that DOCS acted in excess of its jurisdiction when it administratively imposed a period of PRS.” See: Matter of Garner v. New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs., 10 N.Y.3d 358 (N.Y. 2008) [PLN, July 2011, p.45] and a companion case, People v. Sparber, 10 N.Y.3d 457 (N.Y. 2008).

Just two weeks after the decision in Garner, Moulton’s parole was revoked on May 12, 2008 for violating the conditions of his DOCS-imposed PRS, despite his attorney’s argument that the PRS term was a nullity.

Moulton was sentenced to 11 months in prison following his parole revocation but released in October 2008 after a state court granted his habeas corpus petition. He then filed suit for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, seeking damages for his incarceration due to violations of the PRS. The trial court granted the state’s motion to dismiss the action.

The Appellate Division reversed, holding that when Moulton’s “post-Garner parole revocation hearing was held nearly two weeks after DOCS-imposed PRS was categorically declared invalid in this state, [DOCS] did not have the ‘privilege’ to ignore that mandate, or to find him to be in violation of any invalid PRS term or to resentence him to the remainder of his term.” Accordingly, “after Garner, [Moulton] was held without justification.”

The appellate court noted that “Even if the arrest warrant based upon claimant’s violation of PRS were lawful, the validity and lawfulness of that detention evaporated in the wake of Garner.” See: Moulton v. New York, 114 A.D.3d 115, 977 N.Y.S.2d 797 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dep’t 2013).


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Related legal cases

Moulton v. New York

atter of Garner v. New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs.

People v. Sparber

Earley v. Murray