United States v. Wolf Child

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 10-23-2012
  • Case #: 11-30241
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Reinhardt for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and M. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

When a sentencing condition implicates a recognized fundamental liberty interest the court must apply enhanced procedures involving an individualized assessment to ensure that the condition applied is reasonable in its deterrent value and is not overly broad. Furthermore, this enhanced procedure must be made part of the record.

Timothy Eric Wolf Child, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, was sentenced to 7 years of prison with an additional 10 years of supervised probation for the sexual abuse of a minor. The probation included two special conditions that prevented Wolf Child from being in the company of any child under the age of 18, and from dating or socializing with anyone who had children under the age of 18. Wolf Child's attorney appealed the special conditions because Wolf Child has two children from a previous relationship, and another child with his current fiancé. These conditions would prevent Wolf Child from seeing both his children and his fiancé without special permission from his probation officer. The District court made these special conditions without specific evidence of likely recidivism or consideration of Wolf Child's family relationships. The Court reviewed the conditions for procedural error and found that the first condition violated a fundamental right to familial association as well as was not supported in the record by specific evidence, which is required when a fundamental right is impacted. The Court found that the other condition was overly broad, as well as violated a fundamental right to familial association. The Court reversed and remanded specifying that the special conditions related to a fundamental right must take into account an individualized assessment of Wolf Child's situation including family structure and must not be overly broad. Furthermore, these special conditions must be made part of the record and must be reasonable in their deterrent value and not be greater than necessary in their infringement upon fundamental rights. VACATED AND REMANDED.

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