Monday, June 22, 2015

Condition Restricting Computer Use Upheld

U.S. v. Ullmann, 2015 WL 3559221 (6/9/2015) (KS)(Published): The panel approves a district court’s supervised release condition that imposes “restrictions and/or prohibitions to: computer and Internet use.” Ullman was convicted of making a false statement in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. The charge arose from sexually explicit written conversations between Ullmann and an undercover FBI agent posing online as a thirteen-year-old minor. The panel said that normally this language standing alone would impermissibly impose a greater deprivation of liberty than reasonably necessary because it suggests the Probation Office may completely ban a means of communication that has become a necessary component of modern life. However, the district court limited the condition at issue in an oral pronouncement, clarifying that it was restricting, not prohibiting, Ullmann’s use of the Internet and Internet-capable devices. The oral pronouncement trumps the written order and saves the condition. Besides, remarks the panel, the district court said it was retaining its decision making authority and merely asking that probation carry out its directives. The panel added that it discourages future appeals challenging the “restrictions and/or prohibitions” language. Such appeals would not be “a valuable use of our limited judicial resources.”