Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Lifetime supervised release for drug addict substantively unreasonable

Say your recently released federal client repeatedly tests positive for marijuana, picks up a state drug-possession case, is referred to drug treatment, and then repeatedly fails to report for scheduled drug testing. Not a great situation, but certainly not the worst thing a client ever did on supervised release, is it? Not so bad that you would expect him to be revoked, sentenced to 12 more months in prison, and then placed on lifetime supervised release, is it?

Or is it? Because that's what happened in United States v. Brooks, at least until the Second Circuit stepped in. Placing this defendant on lifetime supervised release was substantively unreasonable, held the Circuit.

Some of the good bits:

Supervised release is "a serious sanction that imposes significant limitations on a defendant’s liberty."

A court "may not take account of retribution . . . when imposing a term of supervised release."

"A lifetime of supervised release is . . . to some degree, at odds with the rehabilitative purpose of supervised release, as it presumes that the need for supervision will never end and that the defendant is essentially incorrigible."

"Given the non-violent nature of Brooks’s violations and the difficulty faced by so many offenders in controlling addiction, we conclude that his behavior was not so extreme or unusual as to justify a life term of supervised release."

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