Friday, September 04, 2015

Supervised Release Condition Prohibiting Possession of Pornography Was Not Reasonable

United States v. Martinez-Torres, 2015 WL 4590987 (7/31/2015) (NM) (Published): The panel ruled that imposing an adult pornography restriction as a condition of supervised release was not reasonably related to Mr. Martinez’s history or other statutory sentencing factors. As part of his sentence for violating supervised release, the district court ordered that Martinez be forbidden from viewing or possessing any material depicting or describing sexually explicit conduct. Defense counsel objected to this condition. The district court said that the condition was “in the best interests of the public” and necessary because Martinez was a registered sex offender in Texas. The panel decided the court’s reasons were inadequate to warrant the condition. The district court should have made “an individual assessment of whether the condition was appropriate” for Martinez. In other words, the court had to demonstrate it had a “reasoned basis” for applying the condition to the specific accused. Since the district court used Martinez’s history as a reason for imposing the condition, it had to show that sexually stimulating materials had fueled the unfortunate parts of his history. The panel said that nexus can be satisfied by looking at expert studies or considering the court’s own observations and experience. The panel listed a page and a half of authority coming out on both sides of the question of whether viewing adult pornography promotes sexual aggression. Finally, the court distinguished Mike and Hahn, two cases in which other panels found a court imposing this condition had not committed plain error. The panel explained that a district court’s erroneous ruling will survive a plain error analysis when other circuits are divided on the issue. (Which, on this issue, they are.) However, when such an error is reviewed for an abuse of discretion, the court will “examine more deeply whether the apparent differences in other circuits can be reconciled” and then will reach its “own conclusion about the governing law.” In the district court, therefore, it is best to object to such conditions.