United States v. Ellis, No. 19-4159 (4th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Fourth Circuit held that defendant's conditions of supervised release banning legal pornography and internet access cannot be sustained as "reasonably related" under 18 U.S.C. 3583(d)(1) and are overbroad under 18 U.S.C. 3583(d)(2). The court explained that the district court abused its discretion in imposing an outright ban on defendant possessing legal pornography or entering any location where it may be accessed. In this case, defendant violated his release by travelling outside the judicial district without permission, skipping therapy appointments, and lying to his probation officer, among other similar violative conduct. The court stated that pornography use was not the basis of any violation. Furthermore, when defendant lied about watching pornography during a polygraph exam at the outset of his sex offender treatment, the violative conduct was dishonesty, not pornography consumption. Finally, the pornography restriction impermissibly restricts more liberty than is reasonably necessary.
The court also concluded that an outright ban on defendant's internet access cannot be sustained under section 3583(d)(1)'s "reasonably related" requirement absent some evidence linking his offense or criminal history to unlawful use of the internet. The government’s remaining arguments fail for the same reasons as the pornography restriction. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to strike those conditions of supervised release.