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Special Conditions of Probation Not Justified, Substantively Unreasonable

United States v. Wolf Child 2012 WL 5200347 (9th Cir. 2012). Special conditions of probation imposed on the defendant were not justified, were substantively unreasonable, and were impermissibly overbroad.

The defendant, a Native American, pled guilty to attempted sexual abuse. The district court imposed several special conditions of supervised release, including one that prohibited him from residing with or being in the company of any child under the age of 18, including his own daughters, and from socializing with or dating anybody with children under the age of 18, including his fiancée, without the prior written approval from his probation officer. The Ninth Circuit reversed the condition, finding that the district court imposed it without first making any specific findings regarding the necessity of restricting the defendant’s ability to have contact with his children and his fiancee. “We hold that the fundamental right to familial association, implicated by the parts of the special condition prohibiting [the defendant] from residing with or being in the company of his own daughters and socializing with his fiancee, is a particularly significant liberty interest.” Therefore, the district court “was required to make special findings on the record supported by evidence in the record, that the condition is necessary for deterrence, protection of the public, or rehabilitation, and that it involves no greater deprivation of liberty than reasonably necessary.” Without such findings, the district committed procedural error. In addition, the court concluded that the special condition was “overbroad both by virtue of prohibiting [the defendant] from being in the company of any child under the age of 18 under any circumstances and by similarly prohibiting him from dating or socializing with anybody who has children under the age of 18, regardless of the circumstances, without prior approval of his probation officer.” On remand, if the district court found it appropriate to impose the special condition, “it must ensure that any such condition is reasonably necessary to accomplish the statutory goals of supervised release and that it infringes on his particularly significant liberty interests no more than reasonably necessary to accomplish those goals.”