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United States v. Sirois

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 6, 2018

RICKY SIROIS, Defendant, Appellant.


          Michelle Menken and The Law Office of Michelle Menken on brief for appellant.

          Julia M. Lipez, Assistant United States Attorney, and Halsey B. Frank, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Kayatta, and Barron, Circuit Judges.


         After his release from federal custody following a drug trafficking conviction, Ricky Sirois failed three drug tests and pleaded guilty to felony drug possession in state court. Concluding that this conduct violated Sirois's conditions of supervised release, the district court revoked his supervised release and committed him to twenty-four months' imprisonment. On appeal, Sirois contends that because his drug addiction is a disease, sentencing him to a term of imprisonment for manifesting a condition of his disease constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Sirois also challenges the substantive reasonableness of his sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm.


         Sirois has struggled with substance abuse for most of his life. He suffered severe physical and emotional trauma at an early age, and, in his teenage years, began using drugs. In the ensuing decades, Sirois accumulated numerous run-ins with the law. The facts of this case revolve around a few such encounters.

         In November of 2011, a grand jury indicted Sirois on drug trafficking charges stemming from his participation in an oxycodone distribution ring in central and southern Maine. Sirois pleaded guilty, and the district court sentenced Sirois to forty-eight months' imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. As part of the conditions of his supervised release, the district court required that Sirois not commit any crime, specifically prohibited him from using or possessing controlled substances, and required that he submit to drug testing.

         Sirois served his time in prison and commenced his term of supervised release on June 1, 2015. With but minor blemishes, this post-incarceration period appears to have begun smoothly. Sirois rented a room, communicated with his probation officer, and found legitimate sources of income. He also took steps to address his substance abuse. Sirois attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, developed a strong relationship with his sponsor, and attempted to obtain a prescription for Subutex to manage his opiate addiction. During this first year, Sirois passed his required drug tests.

         Approximately a year after his release, Sirois faltered. On May 18, 2016, his drug test turned up positive for cocaine, which he admitted using. In September of the same year, Sirois had a long-awaited foot surgery. The doctor prescribed hydromorphone, an opioid, to manage pain. Sirois does not appear to have abused his prescription; a pill count conducted by his probation officer detected no issues, and his doctor then tapered the prescription.

         Not long after, however, Sirois renewed the behavior that the terms of his release prohibited. Twice, in February and April of 2017, Sirois's drug tests detected the presence of cocaine or marijuana. Random home searches revealed his renewed association with other drug users. Sirois appeared to turn antagonistic to drug treatment, calling his drug testing "bullshit" and declaring that he would rather go back to jail than engage in substance abuse treatment, although he did reluctantly agree to complete a substance abuse assessment.

         This downward spiral culminated on May 24, 2017, when Waterville, Maine police discovered Sirois, during a traffic stop, in possession of a crack pipe, hypodermic needles, marijuana, crack cocaine, and heroin. Sirois pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of heroin, a Class C felony under Maine state law, and received a sentence of fifty-nine days in jail.

         Sirois's state drug conviction and failed drug tests led the probation office to seek the revocation of his supervised release. The Revocation Report calculated, and Sirois did not then and does not now dispute, that his guidelines sentencing ...

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