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Working in Legal Field Not Prohibited While on Federal Supervised Release

Federal probation officers cannot restrict persons on supervised release from working as legal assistants, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held on April 8, 2009.
Yraida L. Guanipa, convicted of attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine, was placed on supervised release following her federal prison sentence for drug conspiracy charges. She was prohibited by her probation officer from working as a paralegal based on a condition of her supervised release that barred her from associating with convicted felons or any person engaged in criminal activity.

Guanipa filed a Fed.R.Crim.P.32.1(c) motion seeking clarification of the associational restriction condition as it related to her employment as a paralegal. The district court denied the motion, and Guanipa appealed.

In an unpublished opinion, the Eleventh Circuit reversed. First, the appellate court held that probation officers do not have authority to impose occupational restrictions. Rather, according to the Court of Appeals, “district courts are exclusively authorized with imposing occupational restrictions as a condition of supervised release.”

More importantly, citing Arciniega v. Freeman, 404 U.S. 4 (1971), the Eleventh Circuit held that associational restrictions, like the one imposed on Guanipa, do not extend to “casual or chance meetings” or “occupational association, standing alone.”

Because an “occupational association, standing alone is insufficient evidence of a likely violation of [a] criminal association restriction,” the Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the matter to the district court for more detailed findings as to how such a restriction related to Guanipa’s crime of conviction and was necessary to ensure the protection of the public. See: United States v. Guanipa, 322 Fed. Appx. 831 (11th Cir. 2009).

On remand, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida conducted hearings on July 9 and 16, 2009. The court then issued an order on July 21 granting Guanipa’s motion to clarify the conditions of her supervised release, holding that she “may work as a paralegal” within capacities specified by her attorney-employer – which included legal research, drafting and mailing pleadings, contact with clients and opposing counsel, and assisting at hearings, depositions and trials. See: United States v. Guanipa, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Fla.), Case No. 1:96-cr-00222-FAM.

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Related legal cases

United States v. Guanipa

United States v. Guanipa