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Seventh Circuit Vacates Unduly Restrictive Supervised Release Conditions

Seventh Circuit Vacates Unduly Restrictive Supervised Release Conditions

by Derek Gilna

In a consolidated case involving post-release restrictions imposed on federal defendants, the Seventh Circuit struck down those portions of a district court’s judgment it deemed beyond the scope of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). The case was remanded for a new judgment order in line with the Court of Appeals’ recommendation of five “best practices” for conditions of supervised release.

The original conditions of release for one of the defendants, convicted of a sexual offense, included a lifetime prohibition on legal or illegal materials containing “nudity,” a ban on mood-altering substances and a mandatory sex offender program. Those of the other defendant, who was convicted of selling illegal drugs, also included a ban on mood-altering substances as well as a ban on excessive use of alcohol, plus a requirement that he receive substance abuse treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy.

The Seventh Circuit suggested instead that the district court follow the strictures of § 3583(d) of the Sentencing Reform Act and U.S.S.G. § 5D1.3(a), as well as 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), which requires a court to consider the seriousness of the offense, promote respect for the law, impose just punishment, protect the public and provide the defendant with the “needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner.”

The five “best practices” enumerated by the appellate court included the following:

“1. Require the probation service to communicate its recommendations for conditions of supervised release to defense counsel at least two weeks before the sentencing hearing.

2. Make an independent judgment ... of the appropriateness of the recommended conditions – independent, that is, of agreement between prosecutor and defense counsel....

3. Determine appropriateness with reference to the particular conduct, character, etc., of the defendant, rather than on the basis of loose generalizations about the defendant’s crime and criminal history, and where possible with reference also to the relevant criminological literature.

4. Make sure that each condition imposed is simply worded....

5. Require that on the eve of his release from prison, the defendant attend a brief hearing before the sentencing judge ... in order to be reminded of the conditions of supervised release .... [and] for the judge to consider whether to modify one or more of the conditions in light of any changed circumstances brought about by the defendant’s experiences in prison.”

The appellate court’s lengthy examination of post-release supervision conditions in this ruling is both informative and enlightening. However, the Seventh Circuit limited its decision to remand the consolidated cases to issues related to supervised release; the prison sentences imposed by the district court were affirmed. See: United States v. Siegel, 753 F.3d 705 (7th Cir. 2014).

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Related legal case

United States v. Siegel