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Ninth Circuit Vacates Unconstitutionally Vague Supervised-Release Conditions

by David M. Reutter

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held the search of a home listed as the residence of a parolee was legal despite the fact the parolee no longer lived at the residence. The Court further found the conditions of supervised release imposed on the defendant were unconstitutionally vague, and it remanded for resentencing.

Anthony Lee Ped pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, but he retained the right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion. The district court imposed a sentence of 70 months, followed by three years of supervised release.

The facts showed that Ped’s brother, Nick Wilson, was released in April 2016 from a California prison and placed on post-release supervision, a status similar to parole.

He moved into a residence with his mother and Ped. The home was subjected to two warrantless searches pursuant to a supervision condition that allowed such searches “day or night.”

Wilson’s probation officer provided the Santa Paula Police Department with a list of names and addresses, which included Wilson, of persons subject to supervision. The next day, Wilson went to jail and spent the next 90 days there. When released, Wilson gave the probation officer a new address for his residence.

About 10 days later, police officers decided to conduct random warrantless searches of persons under supervision. They had not received an updated list, and chose Wilson’s residence. As they approached the home, officers said they heard a commotion inside and pushed the door open. They saw Ped holding a methamphetamine pipe.

Both Ped and his mother told officers that Wilson no longer lived there, but the officers did not believe them and conducted the search. They found seven firearms, which Ped admitted were his and that he had previously been convicted of a felony. The district court denied his motion to suppress the fruits of the search.

The Ninth Circuit held that the officers acted reasonably in relying on the list provided by the probation officer in believing Wilson lived there. While the court did not “question that at a certain point, a reported address would become so old that it would no longer be reasonable for officers to rely on it. But nothing about Wilson’s reported address suggested that it was likely to be transitory….” Although someone might move in a three-month period, it would be reasonable for officers to expect that that person would still be living with family members. Finding the officers reasonably believed Wilson lived there, the denial of the suppression motion was affirmed.

Error, however, occurred in the assigned conditions of supervisory release. The Court instructed that it had previously held in United States v. Evans, 883 F.3d 1154 (9th Cir. 2018), that conditions that a defendant “support his ... dependents and meet other family responsibilities,” “work regularly at a lawful occupation,” and “ notify third parties of risks that may be occasioned by [his] criminal record or personal history or characteristics” are unconstitutionally vague. Although such conditions were standard conditions recommended by Sentencing Guidelines § 5D1.3(c) (2015), the Ninth Circuit joined the Seventh Circuit in holding that they are unconstitutionally vague. United States v. Thompson, 777 F.3d 368 (7th Cir. 2015). Thus, the Court vacated the supervised-release conditions at issue.

The proper remedy is to remand with instructions for the district court to “impose whatever alternative conditions it deems appropriate.” See: United States v. Ped, 943 F.3d. 427 (9th Cir. 2019). 

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Related legal case

United States v. Ped



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