Friday, January 25, 2013

6th Circuit vacates special conditions of supervised release in CP case due to court's failure to justify the conditions

In U.S. v. Widmer, No. 12-5135 (6th Cir. 2013), the Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded the special conditions of supervised release in the sentence related to a child pornography conviction.

The defendant had admitted to downloading child pornography, and his computer contained seven images and 134 videos (which, under the federal guidelines, is calculated as a total of 10,057 images since each video is considered 75 images). Ultimately, he was sentenced to 97 months and five years of supervised release.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the conditions of his supervised release were an abuse of discretion. The conditions included "sex-offender mental-health treatment, a post-release psychosexual evaluation, probation-officer compliance searches, and restrictions on both his association with minors and use of computers."

The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded on the issue because:

the court imposed the challenged conditions without explaining or addressing Widmer's argument that his circumstances did not justify special supervised release conditions.
The court acknowledged that they occasionally affirm special conditions on a silent record, but the reasoning for these conditions was not clear based on the record. For example, the association with minors condition would bar the defendant from seeing his daughter, though he "never solicited or physically harmed a child."


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