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US v Bear

This is an excellent instructive case as to when a special condition restricting access to one's own children is appropriate and when it is not appropriate. Mr Bear's circumstances show NO REASON to restrict him from his own children; court agrees. Unfortunately his loses on his other issues.

10-31-2014 Iowa:

US v Bear

Defendant, Wesley A. Bear, pled guilty to one count of failing to register or update a registration as a sex offender in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2250. At sentencing, the district court imposed certain special sex offender conditions of supervised release in addition to its standard conditions of supervised release.

Mr. Bear objected to the conditions restricting his contact with children and requiring him to submit to sex offender mental health assessment and treatment. The district court overruled his objections, and Mr. Bear now appeals.

This case requires us to resolve three disputes. First, Mr. Bear argues it was an abuse of discretion for the district court to impose sex offender conditions where his conviction of the prior sex offense occurred twelve years before this conviction.

Second, Mr. Bear contends the conditions involve a greater deprivation of liberty than reasonably necessary to achieve the purposes of sentencing.

Third, Mr. Bear claims the special conditions are not consistent with pertinent policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.

Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we AFFIRM in part, VACATE in part, and REMAND to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

1. Restrictions on Mr. Bear's Contact with Children

Mr. Bear argues the restrictions on his contact with children are improper because they prevent him from being alone with his own children. When a defendant has committed a sex offense against children or other vulnerable victims, general restrictions on contact with children ordinarily do not involve a greater deprivation of liberty than reasonably necessary. United States v. Smith, 606 F.3d 1270, 1282-83 (10th Cir. 2010).

But restrictions on a defendant's contact with his own children are subject to stricter scrutiny. "[T]he relationship between parent and child is constitutionally protected," and "a father has a fundamental liberty interest in maintaining his familial relationship with his [children]." United States v. Edgin, 92 F.3d 1044, 1049 (10th Cir. 1996).

Given the importance of this liberty interest, "special conditions that interfere with the right of familial association can do so only in compelling circumstances," Smith, 606 F.3d at 1284, and it is imperative that any such restriction "be especially fine-tuned" to achieve the statutory purposes of sentencing. Edgin, 92 F.3d at 1049.

The present record does not provide compelling evidence that could support restrictions on Mr. Bear's contact with his own children. The government presented no evidence that in the twelve years since Mr. Bear's sex offense conviction he has committed any sexual offense, displayed a propensity to commit future sexual offenses, or exhibited a proclivity toward sexual violence. Nor is there any evidence in the record that Mr. Bear has continuing deviant sexual tendencies, fantasizes about having sex with children, or has otherwise displayed a danger to his own three children.

Under these circumstances, Mr. Bear's 2001 conviction for sex offenses is simply too remote in time, standing alone, to provide compelling evidence justifying infringement upon Mr. Bear's right of familial association. Thus we vacate the conditions limiting Mr. Bear's ability to be at his children's residence and his ability to be alone with his children without supervision.


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