9th Circuit: Sentencing restrictions on contact with one’s children require enhanced procedural review

U.S. v. Child, No. 11-30241 (Before: Mary M. Schroeder, Stephen Reinhardt, and Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Reinhardt)

Opinion Excerpt:

Timothy Eric Wolf Child, a Native American, appeals a special condition of supervised release imposed by the district court after he pleaded guilty to attempted sexual abuse. The special condition, condition 9, prohibited Wolf Child from residing with or being in the company of any child under the age of 18, including his own daughters, and from socializing with or dating anybody with children under the age of 18,
including his fiancée, in both cases unless he had prior written approval from his probation officer. The district court imposed the special condition without first making any specific findings regarding the necessity of restricting Wolf Child’s ability to have contact with his children and his fiancée. It did so on the basis of a record devoid of evidence supporting the need for such a restriction with respect to his intimate family members.

We hold that the fundamental right to familial association, implicated by the parts of the special condition prohibiting Wolf Child from residing with or being in the company of his own daughters and socializing with his fiancée, is a “particularly significant liberty interest.” The district court was therefore required to follow an enhanced procedural requirement to make special findings on the record
supported by evidence in the record, that the condition is necessary for deterrence, protection of the public, or rehabilitation, and that it involves no greater deprivation of liberty than reasonably necessary. Because the district court made no such findings regarding the imposition of the special condition, and it conducted no individualized examination of Wolf Child’s relationship with the affected family members, it committed procedural error with regard to these specific individuals.

Moreover, because of the absence of any evidence in the record that would support the limitations on the fundamental liberty interests at issue, we hold that special condition 9, as applied to restrict Wolf Child’s ability to reside or socialize with his own children and with his fiancée is substantively unreasonable. In addition, we conclude that special condition 9 is overbroad both by virtue of prohibiting Wolf Child from being in the company of any child under the age of 18 under any circumstances and by similarly prohibiting him from dating or socializing with anybody who has children under the age of 18, regardless of the circumstances, without prior approval of
his probation officer. On remand, if the district court deems it appropriate to adopt a special condition limiting Wolf
Child’s contact with children under the age of 18 (other than his own children) and associating with parents of children
under the age of 18 (other than his fiancée) it must ensure that any such condition is reasonably necessary to accomplish the
statutory goals of supervised release and that it infringes on his particularly significant liberty interests no more than reasonably necessary to accomplish those goals.