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Texas Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Prohibiting Sex Offender Parole Conditions; Case Settles for $52,000

by Matt Clarke

On October 7, 2011, a U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (Board) from enforcing onerous sex offender conditions that had been imposed on a parolee who had not been convicted of a sex offense.

Buddy Jene Yeary, convicted of Possession or Transportation of an Immediate Precursor (Sulfuric Acid and Ethyl Ether), spent four years in prison before he was released on parole. His parole certificate informed him that he would be subjected to an onerous suite of restrictive sex offender conditions known as “Condition X.”

The Condition X requirements included but were not limited to: registering as a sex offender; remaining a specified distance from premises where persons under 18 years of age (minors) commonly gather; not supervising or participating in any program involving minors; not having any unsupervised contact (including indirectly, telephonically and electronically) with minors; not dating, marrying or having a platonic relationship with any person with minor children; attending psychological counseling; participating in a sex offender treatment program; not possessing or operating any type of computer, camera or video equipment; not participating in any volunteer activities; not possessing sexually explicit literature; being subject to polygraphs regarding sexual history, and being subject to “penile plethysmographs” in which a pressure-measuring device is attached to the penis and monitored while the subject is shown pictures.

Yeary filed a civil rights complaint against various Texas parole officials in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his due process rights were violated when he was subjected to Condition X requirements without any hearing or other form of due process. The court granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the enforcement of Condition X. A hearing was then held as to whether a preliminary injunction should issue prohibiting the defendants from enforcing Condition X requirements until Yeary was afforded due process.

The district court noted that this area of law was well-settled both in the Fifth Circuit and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. “The imposition of sex-offender conditions on a defendant who has not been convicted of a sex offense – whether a prisoner or a parolee – without first providing the defendant with certain due-process protections is unconstitutional,” the court wrote.

Thus, Condition X cannot be imposed on a prisoner prior to release or on a parolee if they have no sex offense convictions, without a hearing first being held that affords due process protections similar to those in a parole revocation hearing.

The defendants promised not to enforce the sex offender conditions against Yeary until he was provided such a hearing. The court held that was not enough. “So long as the sex offender conditions remain as a condition of Plaintiff’s parole, neither Plaintiff not the Court can be assured that Defendants will not continue to enforce the sex offender conditions of Plaintiff’s parole by threatening future revocation or arrest.” Therefore, the district court granted the preliminary injunction and enjoined the defendants from requiring Yeary to comply with Condition X.

The case subsequently settled on August 31, 2012 after the district court granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motions to dismiss. The Board had agreed to remove the Condition X requirements imposed on Yeary prior to the settlement, and the defendants paid a total of $52,000 to settle the case, inclusive of attorney fees and costs. See: Yeary v. Owens, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Tex.), Case No. 1:11-cv-00768-LY.

Previously, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had held that Texas parole officials could not impose sex offender conditions on a parolee who had not been convicted of a sex offense without providing procedural due process in the form of notice and a hearing. See: Coleman v. Dretke, 395 F.3d 216 (5th Cir. 2004) and 409 F.3d 665 (5th Cir. 2005) [PLN, July 2006, p.27]. However, parole officials can impose Condition X on parolees who are on parole for a non-sex offense but previously had been convicted of a sex crime. [See: PLN, May 2011, p.46].

In November 2011, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles removed Condition X requirements for 176 parolees fol-lowing an adverse ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. [See: PLN, July 2012, p.46].

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Related legal case

Yeary v. Owens