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Remote Sex Conviction Cannot Support Sex Offender Treatment Condition

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a 17-year-old conviction was too remote in time to warrant a special supervised release condition mandating sex offender treatment, but left open whether a more recent stalking conviction warranted imposition of the special condition.

Before the Court was the appeal of Larry W. Carter, who was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. As a condition of his supervised release, the government requested a special provision for sex offender treatment and submission to polygraph examinations. Carter argued the conditions failed to meet statutory provisions governing special supervised release conditions, and that the polygraphs violated his Fifth Amendment rights.

The Sixth Circuit found the special condition of sex offender treatment was not “reasonably related” to “the nature and circumstances of the offense.” A “felon in the possession of a firearm is not reasonably related to sex offender conditions,” the Court held.

The Court then considered if the special condition was reasonably related to “the history and characteristics of the defendant.” To justify the special condition, the district court had relied upon “a conviction in 1988 for rape during a burglary and a conviction of assault with intent to commit rape and an attempt to commit a felony which had some similarity to the other offenses.” The sentencing court also relied upon a 2004 stalking conviction.

The Sixth Circuit held it may consider both the 1988 offenses and the 2004 stalking conviction to determine if the special condition was reasonably related to Carter’s criminal history. The Court of Appeals held the 17-year-old convictions were too remote in time to be reasonably related to a sex offender condition for supervised release.

The stalking charges, however, may be relevant and thus form the basis for the special condition. Stalking charges under Tennessee law encompass both sexual and nonsexual conduct; thus, the Court found “the mere fact of conviction is insufficient to establish that Carter committed a recent sex offense.” The question was whether Carter actually committed the offense of stalking in a sexual manner.

That was a question for the district court to answer. Carter’s special condition was vacated and remanded for the district court to make the needed factual determinations. As the appeal was resolved on this basis, the Fifth Amendment question was not addressed by the Court. See: United States v. Carter, 463 F.3d 526 (6th Cir. 2006).

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Related legal case

United States v. Carter