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US v Springston

8-18-2011 Arkansas:

U.S. v. Springston
(650 F.3d 1153 (2011)

Bobby Lynn Springston entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of failing to register as a sex offender, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250. The district court sentenced him to 36 months' imprisonment and 10 years' supervised release. Springston appeals the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment, and three special conditions of supervised release imposed by the district court. We affirm Springston's conviction, vacate the challenged special conditions of supervised release, and remand for further proceedings.

Springston also renews challenges to three of the special conditions of his supervised release: special condition 2, which prohibits him from having unsupervised contact with minors; special condition 3, which provides that he may not access the Internet without prior approval from the probation office and may not have Internet access at his residence; and special condition 6, which requires that he submit to mental health testing or treatment with an emphasis on sex offender treatment, as deemed necessary and directed by a probation officer. We review the special conditions for abuse of discretion. United States v. Durham, 618 F.3d 921, 933 (8th Cir. 2010).

Springston argues that the district court abused its discretion by imposing special conditions 2, 3, and 6, because they do not comply with any of the requirements in § 3583 and are not supported by particularized findings. The government concedes that the district court erred by imposing special condition 3, and we agree. The record, as the government describes it, is "devoid of evidence that [Springston] has ever used a computer for any purpose." We therefore vacate special condition 3.

We likewise conclude that the district court abused its discretion by imposing special conditions 2 and 6 without adequate explanation. The court's only statement regarding the need for those special conditions came in response to Springston's objections at the sentencing hearing. At that point, the court said that "Mr. Springston's history as a sex offender justifies all of those conditions."

Our cases say that a court may impose a special condition on the ground that it is related to a defendant's prior offense, see United States v. Smart, 472 F.3d 556, 559 (8th Cir. 2006), but that a court "may not impose a special condition on all those found guilty of a particular offense." Davis, 452 F.3d at 995. The court must "conduct an inquiry `on an individualized basis,' looking at the specific facts of the defendant's criminal history and his particular offenses," and make "a particularized showing of the need for the condition in each case." United States v. Kelly, 625 F.3d 516, 520 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Davis, 452 F.3d at 995). We applied this proposition in United States v. Bender, 566 F.3d 748 (8th Cir. 2009), where the district court explained that it imposed a special condition barring the defendant from possessing sexually stimulating material because "sex offenders need to have a very tight rein," and because "a sex offender doesn't have any business looking at Playboy magazine." Id. at 752. This court held that because the district court considered the defendant as "part of a class" of persons convicted of sex offenses, its findings in support of the special condition were "not sufficiently particularized to the defendant." Id.

At some point, there must be a limit to the need for an individualized inquiry, because certain characteristics may justify corresponding conditions for virtually all offenders with such characteristics, but the court's discussion here was insufficient. The court said during the sentencing hearing that there was "no indication" that Springston will "get into any further sex-related offenses," and then made no findings particular to Springston regarding the need for the conditions. Springston's prior offense did not involve a minor, and there was nothing in the record suggesting that Springston was a risk to reoffend against adults. The court simply did not explain why it believed that Springston's twenty-five-year-old conviction justified the conditions. See United States v. Scott, 270 F.3d 632, 634, 636 (8th Cir. 2001). It may be that similar special conditions could be justified in a case involving failure to register as a sex offender, such as when there is reason to believe that the failure to register evidences recalcitrance and an ongoing proclivity to commit sexual crimes, but the district court expressly stated that this is not such a case. We therefore vacate special conditions 2 and 6.

We affirm the judgment of conviction, vacate special conditions 2, 3, and 6, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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