Archive | supervised release

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Judge Weinstein on Alcohol-Related Supervised Release Violations

Judge Weinstein issued an opinion this week terminating the supervised release of a defendant who violated a standard condition of release by consuming alcohol while in a drug treatment program. See United States v. Thomas, No. 15-cr-382, DE 575 (Nov. 6, 2018), available here. The opinion builds on Judge Weinstein’s more extensive opinion in United States v. Trotter concerning violations of supervised release for marijuana use. As Judge Weinstein urged in Trotter, practitioners should move to modify or terminate supervised release where the defendant’s only violations consist of minor infractions. (Indeed, Judge Weinstein suggests in Trotter that practitioners should move for termination of supervised release in all cases where the defendant has completed one year of supervision.)

As is customary with Judge Weinstein, the opinion’s introduction provides an excellent synopsis of its analysis:

The instant memorandum considers [an] important issue in supervised release: what to do with

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Categories: sentencing, sentencing findings, supervised release

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Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Judge Weinstein Urges More Frequent Termination of Supervised Release (Including for Marijuana Users)

Last week Judge Weinstein issued a remarkable opinion, available here, terminating supervised release for a defendant who, apart from habitual marijuana use, has committed no crimes since his release from prison. See United States v. Trotter, No. 15-cr-382, DE 543 (E.D.N.Y. July 5, 2018). The lengthy-but-readable opinion is worth reading in its entirety, particularly for those not intimately familiar with the law governing supervised release.

The opinion in Trotter made headlines for Judge Weinstein’s commitments to avoid punishing supervisees for marijuana use, and to terminate supervised release for marijuana users who are otherwise rehabilitated.  Equally relevant to practitioners, however, is Judge Weinstein’s more general critique of excessive supervision. Particularly important is Judge Weinstein’s suggestion that the defense bar move more frequently for termination of supervised release in the interest of justice pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3583. Indeed, Judge Weinstein urges practitioners to move for termination of supervised release …

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Categories: marijuana, sentencing, sentencing findings, supervised release

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Friday, May 4th, 2018

Second Circuit Vacates Imposition of Lifetime Supervised Release

It’s been a busy week for the Second Circuit. On Wednesday, the Circuit reversed a sentence imposing a life term of supervised release for a defendant who had initially been convicted of drug offenses. See United States v. Brooks, No. 16-4063 (2d Cir. 2018) (per curiam) (Parker, Lynch, Chin) (appeal from Kaplan, J., SDNY). The opinion, available here, contains great language for use at sentencings and appeals.

The defendant in Brooks had initially pled guilty to distributing and possessing with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, in violation statutes including 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). After release from prison, he was charged with numerous supervised release violations, and pled guilty to violating three conditions related to drug use. At his revocation hearing, the defendant’s attorney noted the defendant’s “serious drug problem” as a “huge underlying and contributing factor” to his violations. Neither the government nor Probation recommended a specific …

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Categories: drug distribution, procedural reasonableness, sentencing, substantive reasonableness, supervised release

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Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Opinion Reversing Alcohol-Related Supervised Release Condition

Yesterday the Second Circuit issued a short opinion reversing a special condition of supervised release requiring the defendant to abstain from any alcohol while on supervision. The opinion in United States v. Betts, No. 17-231 (Leval, Calabresi, Cabranes) (reversal from WDNY) is available here. (The Second Circuit recently issued a summary opinion that reached the same conclusion on plain error review).

The defendant in Betts was originally convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and pled guilty to a violation of supervised release for failing to notify his probation within 72 hours of an arrest (for driving without a license). As a special condition of supervised release, the district court imposed a total ban on alcohol consumption. The Second Circuit held that this condition was not reasonably related to his underlying conviction or his admitted supervised release violation:

The District Court was not presented with any evidence

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Friday, February 9th, 2018

VOSR Sentence Declared Procedurally Unreasonable on Plain Error Review

It’s been a slow week for the Second Circuit, but today it issued a summary order reversing a sentence for violations of supervised release as procedurally unreasonable. This holding is unremarkable in light of the district court’s failure to articulate any specific reasons for the defendant’s above-Guidelines sentence. Somewhat notable, however, is the panel’s discussion of why the sentence is reversible under plain error review. The summary order in United States v. Kalaba, No. 17-328 (Katzmann, Pooler, Droney) (appeal from Preska, J., SDNY), is available here.

While on supervised release, Mr. Kalaba was arrested and indicted for several counts relating to a narcotics distribution conspiracy. He was sentenced to 84 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count and being convicted of the others at trial. While awaiting trial, the Probation Office submitted a report charging four violations of supervised release. Two violations were established by the narcotics …

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Categories: 3553(c), plain error, procedural reasonableness, supervised release

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Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Plain Error Reversal of Supervised Release Condition re. Alcohol

Today the Second Circuit reversed a district court’s sentence imposing as a special condition of supervised release that the defendant refrain from using any alcohol whatsoever while on supervision. The summary order in United States v. Betts, No. 17-231-cr (Leval, Calabresi, Cabranes) (appeal from W.D.N.Y.) is available here.

The defendant in Betts was originally convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. After release from prison, he pled guilty to a supervised release violation (pursuant to a plea agreement) for failing to notify his probation officer within 72 hours of arrest. The district court sentenced the defendant to ten months’ imprisonment and four months of supervised release. As a special condition of the supervised release, the court required that the defendant refrain from consuming any alcohol.

On plain error review, the Second Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by …

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Categories: plain error, supervised release

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Thursday, September 22nd, 2016


In today’s United States v. Harris, the Second Circuit (Newman, Calabresi, Raggi) decided two things with respect to supervised release.

First, “18 U.S.C. § 3583(e) does not preclude revocation of supervised release on the basis of conduct that earlier prompted a modification of supervision conditions.”  Here, the district court first modified Harris’s terms of supervision — based on his being arrested for allegedly selling drugs — and later revoked supervision when that suspected violation was confirmed by two police officers credibly testifying to witnessing the drug sale.

Second, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(b)(2)(c) does not preclude revocation of supervised release on the basis of hearsay if (1) there is good reason to proffer hearsay and (2) the hearsay is sufficiently reliable.  Here, a witness who claimed Harris punched her “professed fear of retaliation” if she testified against him, which the Court deemed good reason to excuse her …

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Categories: Confrontation Clause, supervised release

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Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Second Circuit Updates – August 24, 2016 – Part 2

I. A state court’s ruling denying collateral review of a “mixed claim” of  ineffective assistance of counsel (involving matters on the record and outside of the record),  on the procedural ground that the claim was not raised on direct appeal, was not “adequate” to bar federal habeas corpus review (28 U.S.C. § 2254).

Pierotti v. Walsh, No.15-1944-pr (Circuit Judges: Pooler, Livingston, and Lohier), holds that a state prisoner’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) was not procedurally barred under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 .

A. The state trial

Petitioner Pierotti has been hearing impaired since childhood. He “wears hearing aids in both ears,” and “the only hearing aid he had with him in jail broke.”  At a pretrial hearing, his lawyer asked for a continuance to make “some accommodation for his hearing loss.”  The judge denied the request saying “this is a very small courtroom” and suggesting that …

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Friday, June 24th, 2016

Conditions of Supervised Release Must Be Reasonably Related To Sentencing Objectives

The Circuit issued decisions in four criminal cases today.

In United States v. Brown, 14-4643, the Court vacated and remanded for resentencing.  The district court had imposed special conditions of supervision, but had not given any explanation for the conditions or stated the relationship between the conditions and any sentencing objective.  But a district court does not have “untrammeled” discretion in imposing special conditions of supervised release, the Circuit explained, and “usual and severe conditions,” like those impinging on a First Amendment right, will be “carefully scrutinize[d].”  The district court “is required to make an individualized assessment when determining whether to impose a special condition of supervised release and to state on the record the reason for imposing it.”  Because the district court failed to do so, and the reason for the special conditions was not “self-evident in the record,” the Circuit vacated the special conditions and remanded …

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Categories: child pornography, supervised release

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Thursday, May 26th, 2016

No Wins for Criminal Defendants Today

The Court issued two summary orders in criminal cases today. Neither Appellant prevailed.

  1. United States v. Humphries, No. 14-985-cr (2d Cir. May 26, 2016) (Cabranes, Straub, and Lohier)

Humphries was convicted after a jury trial of interstate travel in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit wire fraud to defeat Canadian tax revenue, conspiracy to manufacture tobacco products without a license, and money laundering. He was sentence to 72 months in prison.

On appeal, Humphries raised four arguments: (1) insufficiency of the trial evidence; (2) improper preclusion of certain affirmative defenses; (3) constructive amendment of the indictment; and (4) improper failure to suspend jury deliberations when it became “apparent” that he was no longer competent to stand trial. The Court addressed only the sufficiency argument, rejecting the other three claims without discussion.

The Court first held that the evidence was sufficient to establish Humphries’s intent to “distribute the proceeds of …

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Categories: criminal history, sufficiency, supervised release

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Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Second Circuit Updates – March 16, 2016 – Home Confinement as Condition of Supervised Release, Sentencing Enhancement for Using Gun in a Robbery, Scope of Cross Examination

Three short summary orders today:

First up, United States v. Fiume: In this case, the sentencing court imposed “GPS tracking” as a condition of Mr. Fiume’s supervised release, but never stated that it was also imposing home detention, a “separate and additionally burdensome condition.” Nonetheless, a condition of home detention appeared in Mr. Fiume’s written judgment. The circuit vacated the home detention condition and remanded for the written judgment to be corrected. The circuit otherwise upheld Mr. Fiume’s 10-month prison sentence as reasonable.

Next up, another sentencing case, United States v. Crum. Here, Mr. Crum argued that the sentencing court should not have enhanced his weapon possession sentence on the basis that the weapon had been used in a robbery. The circuit disagreed, finding the enhancement was not clearly erroneous based on a witness’s 911 calls about a gunpoint robbery by two men, one wearing black and one …

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Categories: cross-examination, sentencing, supervised release

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