3rd Circuit vacates lifetime internet ban for transportation of child pornography
U.S. v. Heckman, No. 08-3844 (3rd Cir. Jan. 11, 2009)
3rd Circuit vacates as too restrictive lifetime internet ban for transportation of child pornography.
The 3rd Circuit vacated two of the special conditions of supervision of Arthur Heckman’s “lifetime term of supervised release” following 188 months in prison for transporting child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(1), namely, an “unconditional ban on internet access” and a “restriction on any interaction with minors” while upholding a third, a “requirement that he participate in a mental health program.”
With regard to the internet restriction, the court articulated three factors “that have guided” its prior holdings in similar cases: “(1) the length and (2) coverage of the imposed ban; and, (3) the defendant’s underlying conduct.” The lengthiest ban they had imposed was 10 years supervised release with a conditional internet access ban requiring permission for internet access. Such a ban was justified, according to the court, because the defendant in that case had “facilitate[d], entice[d], and encourage[d] the real-time molestation of a child.” Therefore:
If upheld, Heckman’s ban would be the most restrictive Internet ban that we have permitted—both in terms of the length and coverage of the ban itself and the nature of the defendant’s underlying conduct . . . this [also] would be the first time that we have upheld an Internet ban for a conviction involving the transmission of child pornography rather than the direct exploitation of children . . . To uphold Heckman’s ban under our precedent, we would have to make the inferential leap that, given his criminal history, it is likely that he will eventually use the Internet to exploit a minor directly (and do so late in his 70s)—not just distribute child pornography. Although such an inference may be plausible, there is no indication that Heckman has ever used the Internet for such a purpose. Furthermore, there are alternative, less restrictive, means of controlling Heckman’s post-release behavior . . .
We do not hold that limited Internet bans of shorter duration can never be imposed as conditions of supervised release for this type of conduct, but when placed within the context of related precedents, the unconditional, lifetime ban imposed by the District Court in this case is so broad and insufficiently tailored as to constitute “plain error.” We thus hold that this ban involved a “greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary.”