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Branded for Life by the Modern Scarlet Letters: Do Convicted Sex Offenders Have Rights While on Parole, Probation, or Supervised Release?
By John Rhodes and Daniel Donovan
When handling a federal criminal case, defense lawyers first primarily focus on guilt or innocence and second on the potential punishment and penalties, particularly on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and mitigation of the sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). At sentencing, after imposition of the term of probation or months of imprisonment, defense lawyers often relax and fail to closely listen as the judge mechanically reads the list of standard and special conditions of supervision. As a result, lawyers frequently do not object to any special conditions.
Thus, when challenged on appeal, special conditions of supervised release are regularly reviewed under a plain error standard. More often than not, courts reject such challenges. However, recent case law, particularly in the Ninth Circuit, indicates that the time is ripe to object to, and litigate, special conditions of supervised release, particularly in sex offense cases.
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