Back to Summaries

United States v. Timmreck

Case Name
United States v. Timmreck
441 U.S. 780
Unanimous Decision
Authoring Judge
John Paul Stevens
Judge(s) - Majority
John Paul Stevens, Warren Burger, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, William Rehnquist
U.S. Supreme Court
On Review From
6th Circuit
Decision Year


Defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Though he explained the maximum applicable sentence, the district judge violated Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 by failing to describe defendant’s mandatory special parole term. Defendant neither objected nor directly appealed at the time of conviction. Two years after, defendant made a collateral attack pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate the sentence. The Court determined that the district judge’s violation of Rule 11, without more, could not justify a collateral attack. The defendant had not suffered prejudice because the sentence he received was within the maximum range the judge described when he pleaded guilty. The Court cited Hill v. United States, where it rejected a similar challenge to a violation of Rule 32(a). A district court’s failure to ask a defendant if he “has anything to say” amounts to a mere technical violation that may be raised on direct appeal. However, there was no miscarriage of justice or other exceptional circumstances that would warrant the exercise of habeas corpus.

Key Quote

“Such a violation is neither constitutional nor jurisdictional . . . [n]or can any claim reasonably be made that the error here resulted in a ‘complete miscarriage of justice’ or in a proceeding ‘inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure.'” p.783-84