Friday, April 07, 2017

Challenge to sex offender special conditions successful, mostly

US v. Douglas:  In this SORNA case, the defendant challenged the imposition of several sex offender “special conditions” to his supervised release.  The defendant had a conviction from 1994 for aggravated sexual assault.  He argued that this conviction was too remote in time to justify the special conditions.  The district court agreed, in part, with the defendant, imposing only 1 of 13 challenged special conditions.  The district court had ordered that the defendant submit to a sex-offender evaluation for the purpose of assessing his risk to the public and to determine “what, if any, other treatment or conditions were warranted to serve the goals of sentencing.”

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s plan for the defendant, noting that sex offender conditions may be imposed at sentencing for crimes which are not sex crimes.  No offense-specific nexus need be established for the special conditions to be imposed, except the sentencing court must adequately explain its reasoning for imposing the conditions.  Here, the defendant took 14 years of evasive actions to avoid apprehension by law enforcement after he failed to register as a sex offender, and the Fourth Circuit reasoned that his conduct in avoiding authorities undermined congressional efforts in SORNA to combat the risks of recidivism, so the special condition for a sex offender evaluation was warranted.

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