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 suggesting that defendant ever seriously abused alcohol. It also provided no reason for imposing this special condition, beyond a clearly stated displeasure with defendant’s performance while on supervised release. Given the factual record below, the standard condition limiting “excessive use” of alcohol, which was also included in defendant’s judgment, is sufficient to further the objectives of sentencing. We conclude that the special condition banning all alcohol use is not reasonably related to any of the factors outlined in Section 5D1.3(b), and necessitates vacatur.

Slip op. at 10. The Second Circuit also upheld a supervised release condition barring drug use, and rejected a substantive reasonableness challenge to the defendant’s sentence.

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