Seventh Circuit Upholds Discretionary Aspects of Supervised Release for Sex Offenders

By Reddin & Singer


Even after a criminal defendant completes his or her jail sentence, restrictions on freedom may remain. When a defendant leaves a jail or prison, a judge may impose terms of supervised release, which place certain restrictions on a defendant’s activities and require him or her to check in regularly with a probation officer. For defendants convicted of sex crimes, these terms of supervised release may be particularly restrictive because of the very serious nature of their crimes and the high rates of recidivism for sex offenders. A recent case before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals looks at particularly restrictive terms and a defendant’s efforts to oppose them.

In United States v. Warren, Mr. Warren was charged with transporting and possessing child pornography and was sentenced to five years in prison and 15 years of supervised release. Over the course of 19 days in 2003, Mr. Warren managed a Yahoo Group that he used to share and distribute child pornography to other members. He also solicited members to add to the collection of child pornography that he had created. In February 2004, federal agents executed a search of Mr. Warren’s apartment and seized his computer. Mr Warren admitted to hosting the Yahoo group and to possessing child pornography. He pled guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced to jail time and supervised release. Toward the end of his prison term, the probation officers in charge of Mr. Warren’s eventual release petitioned the court to modify Mr. Warren’s conditions of supervised release. Specifically, they sought to add a travel condition to his release, requiring him to notify his probation officers whenever he sought to travel outside the state. They also sought to impose a no-contact-with-minors condition and a polygraph condition.

Mr. Warren opposed the changes, arguing that they were unnecessary and were not included in the judge’s original supervised release order. After considering briefing by both parties, the judge entered a new order on Mr. Warren’s conditions of supervised release and added all three conditions to the order. Mr. Warren appealed.

On appeal, Mr. Warren took specific issue with the provision providing for no contact with minors. Under the order, Mr. Warren was prohibited from having contact with minors unless the contact arose in the course of normal commercial activity, such as while eating at a restaurant or buying something from a store. Mr. Warren argued that such a restrictive no-contact provision was not warranted by the facts of his case because he had not directly interacted with minors while viewing child pornography, nor had he solicited from minors. He contended that since he had no “hands-on” offenses, the condition of supervised release was not necessary.

The Court of Appeals disagreed. It held that while Mr. Warren may not have been hands-on in his affinity for child pornography, he nonetheless had many risk factors that justified the no-contact provision. For instance, he specifically sought through his Yahoo group to seek out new kinds of child pornography, knowing the risks this would create for children, he promoted creating new child pornography, and he also perused websites about how to drug women. The court held that this made his possession-based offense sufficiently serious and warranted the no-contact order. To the extent that Mr. Warren felt the no-contact order was overly restrictive because it prohibited him from participating in events such as church gatherings, parties, or sporting events, the court also noted that Mr. Warren was free to request permission from his probation officers to attend these types of events at their discretion. In total, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s conclusions that the severity of Mr. Warren’s actions was sufficient to justify imposing restrictive conditions of supervised release upon him.

If you are a criminal defendant facing possible charges of sex offenses, it is important that you pay special attention to not only the conditions of jail time or restitution that you might face but also the nature of the supervised release that is likely to be imposed after you leave jail. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you review the terms of your supervised release and consider all necessary objections. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our experienced Milwaukee child pornography lawyers are available to assist you. To find out more about how to protect your rights during the sentencing phase, do not hesitate to contact the law offices of Reddin & Singer, LLP online or give us a call at (414) 271-6400.