Supervised Release: First Things First

United States v. Moore |14-3559

September 2015

In United States v. Moore, 14-3559, the Seventh Circuit continued its hyper-vigilance in reviewing supervised release sentences. The facts of the case are inconsequential except for these salient issues: the district court placed the defendant on supervised release for three years (within the applicable guideline range for supervised release) “without first enunciating its finding that a term of supervised release was necessary.” The sentence was remanded for reconsideration.

That’s right. Although the district court imposed a sentence of supervised release (which one could reasonably infer meant that the district court thought supervised release was appropriate and necessary), the sentencing court’s failure to make an explicit finding that supervised release was necessary was deemed to be erroneous. Like many cases in this context, there appears to be little to gain by allowing these type of procedural errors to go unchecked. Counsel – both prosecutor and defense – would be well served to ensure that the district court makes a finding that supervised release is necessary (or not), the reasons for the length of supervised release, and an explanation for the various terms imposed as part of supervised release. The other option is to invite an appeal, which will simply result in a do-over. And, in some cases, the do-over can result in a more harsh sentence for the defendant than was originally imposed. See United States v. Downs, 14-3157, discussed in our June 2015 blog on revocation proceedings.