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Category: Supervised Release

Second Circuit Affirms Sentencing Court’s Delegation of Verification Testing Decision to Probation

In United States v. Villafane-Lozada, No. 19-2098 (2d Cir. Sept. 3, 2020) (Livingston, Sullivan, Park), the Second Circuit rejected a defendant’s challenge to the district court’s delegation to probation the decision of which type of technology to use in order to verify the defendant’s compliance with the conditions of his supervised release.

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Second Circuit Sidesteps Supervised Release Challenges

In United States v. Birkedahl, 19-2304, the Second Circuit (Sullivan, Park, Nardini) rejected Defendant-Appellant Eric Birkedahl’s challenges to the conditions of his supervised release imposed subsequent to his conviction for possession of child pornography.  Birkedahl pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York to one count of possession of child pornography.  He was sentenced principally to 24 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by a supervised release period of five years.  Among the conditions of supervised released imposed by the district court were:  (1) participation in a sex offender treatment program; (2) submission to computerized voice stress analyzer (“CVSA”) testing or, alternatively, polygraph testing, to ensure compliance with the conditions of supervised release, referred to as the “verification testing condition”; and (3) a so-called “risk condition,” standard in the Western District of New York, whereby Birkedahl could be required to notify members of the public that he posed a risk to them.  Birkedahl objected to the imposition of each at the time of sentencing, and challenged on appeal the district court’s imposition of each.  He did not appeal his term of incarceration, which was a below-the-range sentence.

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Second Circuit Employs “Mini-En Banc” to Relieve District Court of Requirement to Complete Non-Existent Form

In United States v. Karim Smith, the Second Circuit (Wesley, Chin, Sullivan) overturned its prior precedent and held that district courts need not complete a written ‘statement of reasons’ (“SOR”) form when sentencing a defendant during a violation of supervised release (“VOSR”) proceeding, at least until such a form is created by the Sentencing Commission.

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Circuit Reverses Internet Ban Condition of Supervised Release As Substantively Unreasonable And An Excessive Limitation on Liberty, Not Reasonably Related To The Offense

In United States v. Eaglin, the Second Circuit (Cabranes, Carney, and Vilardo, by designation) considered and rejected two conditions of supervised release:  a complete ban on access to the Internet and a similarly broad ban on the possession of legal adult pornography.  The first portion of the Court’s ruling is part of a broader trend that recognizes the centrality of the Internet to our modern world; it is essential for participation in legal activities and a blanket prohibition on its use must be supported by a more compelling record than existed here.

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Second Circuit Holds Life Term of Supervised Release for Non-Violent Drug Offender is Unreasonable

On May 2, 2018, the Second Circuit held in United States v. Jamaal Brooks (Parker, Lynch, Chin) (per curium) that the district court erred in imposing a sentence of lifetime supervised release on a defendant who had violated prior terms of supervised release due to continued drug use and failure to report to scheduled drug testing.  The Court stressed that while the sentencing court has substantial discretion in fashioning an appropriate sentence, a term of supervised release is nonetheless substantially unreasonable if it is improperly justified by retribution and deviates significantly from the sentence given to similarly-situated violators.  Supervised release imposes real burdens on both defendants and the justice system, and this decision is a reminder that, as in other aspects of federal sentencing, the punishment should fit the crime.

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Second Circuit Continues To Give A Close Look To Supervised Release Conditions

In a recent nonprecedential summary order, the Second Circuit (Winter, Lynch, Chin) vacated and remanded a sentence due to a condition of supervised release that prohibited the defendant from having unsupervised contact with any minor, including his nine-year old son.  The summary order in United States v. Donohue, 17-943-cr, reflects the Circuit’s continuing concern that the conditions of supervised release be appropriate given the defendant’s conviction and personal circumstances.

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