Thursday, March 06, 2014

Unreasonable Supervised Release Condition for SORNA Offender Vacated

United States v. Salazar, No. 12-50695 (5th Cir. Feb. 24, 2014) (Higginbotham, Clement, Prado)

Salazar violated the terms of his supervised release for a suspended sentence for his conviction of third-degree sexual abuse when he failed to register as a sex offender, and he was sentenced to a prison term and an additional period of supervised release with numerous special conditions.  The panel holds that “the district court abused its discretion by imposing the challenged condition”—to refrain from purchasing, possessing, or using any sexually stimulating or sexually oriented materials—“on Salazar without demonstrating that it is reasonably related to the statutory factors.” 
At the sentencing, the district court added new conditions to Salazar’s supervised release.  The defense counsel objected to the new conditions because “they’re overly burdensome and . . . .”  Before the defense counsel could finish her sentence, the court overruled the objection.  Again, defense counsel attempted to elaborate on her objection, and the court cut her off with another “Overruled.”  The panel holds that Salazar properly preserved his objection and applies abuse of discretion review because Salazar’s attempts to object with specificity “were futile because the court failed to give his counsel a reasonable opportunity to explain her objections or ask for the rationale behind the court’s refusal to sustain them.”

As to the merits, the panel agrees with Salazar that the challenged condition is not reasonably related to the statutory supervised release factors since there is no indication that sexually-stimulating or sexually-oriented materials contributed either to his sexual abuse or SORNA offense.  The panel vacates and remands for the district court to either remove the condition or attempt to explain its applicability.  The panel does not reach Salazar’s argument that the condition was overbroad and violates his First Amendment rights.

So, keep on objecting to unreasonable terms of supervised release.  You might just end up getting them vacated!

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