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Fifth Circuit Holds Supervised Release Condition Restricting Dating Improper

On December 17, 2015, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a blanket supervised release condition prohibiting a former prisoner from dating any adult with minor children was improper because it was not supported by a factual finding or otherwise clearly substantiated by the record.

James Allen Caravayo pleaded guilty to federal charges of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 96 months in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release. One of the special conditions of supervised release prohibited Caravayo from dating any adult with minor children; he objected to that condition, unsuccessfully. Assisted by Assistant Federal Public Defender Erik Anthony Hanshew, Caravayo appealed the special condition, alleging it violated his First Amendment right to freedom of association.

The Fifth Circuit held that, to survive a First Amendment challenge, the special condition must comply with 18 U.S.C. § 3583(d). Specifically, it must be reasonably related to one of the following: “(1) the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant; (2) the deterrence of criminal conduct; (3) the protection of the public from further crimes of the defendant; and (4) the provision of needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment to the defendant.... The condition may also impose no greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary to advance deterrence, protect the public from the defendant, or advance the defendant’s correctional needs.” The Court of Appeals noted that the district court had made no specific factual findings that the special condition was reasonably related to any of the four above-listed factors.

The appellate court agreed with Caravayo that the First Amendment protects an individual’s right “to enter into and maintain certain intimate human relationships.” Further, although his crime was reprehensible, “Caravayo [did] not have a history of inappropriate contact with minors or of using relationships with adults to reach children.” Therefore, such a broad, boilerplate special condition, unsupported by factual findings, was improper.

The sentence was vacated and the case remanded to the district court for resentencing. See: United States v. Caravayo, 809 F.3d 269 (5th Cir. 2015).

Following remand, on April 15, 2016 the district court revised Caravayo’s supervised release conditions by requiring him to notify his probation officer if he “begins to date anyone who has children under the age of 18.” The court noted that this restriction does “not impose any ‘greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary,’ but simply helps ensure that potential victims are placed on notice.” See: United States v. Caravayo, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65091 (W.D. Tex. 2016). 

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Related legal cases

United States v. Caravayo

United States v. Caravayo