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United States v. Mears: A Reminder About Supervised Release Conditions

In United States v. Mears, 18-460-cr, the Second Circuit (Sack, Livingston, Chin) issued a summary order that merits attention primarily because of the Court’s decision to remand for further proceedings based on the imposition on an unwarranted supervised release condition. 

Despite the fact that the defendant had no history of substance abuse, the Court imposed special conditions requiring drug and alcohol treatment and prohibiting the use of alcohol.  The defendant did not object to the imposition of these conditions at sentencing, but the Court reversed due to plain error.  Special conditions of supervised release must be “reasonably related” to the offense or the offender, or necessary to protect the public or provide the defendant with needed medical care.  Here, the district court even noted at sentencing that “there’s no substance abuse or addiction problems in this case,” but the district court nevertheless imposed these special conditions.  The Court of Appeals held that this amounted to plain error.  While temperance may be useful for many defendants as they plan for life after release from incarceration, the Circuit has held before—and did so again in this case—that no such conditions may be imposed unless the defendant has a demonstrated history of drug or alcohol abuse. 

-By Joshua Kipnees and Harry Sandick