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United States v. Anderson, 583 F.3d 504 (7th Cir. 2009)

The question whether the district court correctly understood our decision in United States v. Head, 552 F.3d 640 (2009), as precluding its authority to impose, as a condition of supervised release, placement in a halfway house. Ronald Maceri, Kevin Anderson, and Rick Harre each violated the conditions of his supervised release, and each asked that he be given a shorter term of re-imprisonment to be followed by placement in a halfway house as one condition of his new supervised release.

The district court imposed a new term of imprisonment with a recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) that it place each man in a halfway house during the last six months of his sentence. All three now argue that this violated 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), because it resulted in a term of imprisonment longer than necessary. We must decide whether Head requires this result.

The most difficult question that these appeals present is whether district courts may impose halfway-house confinement as a condition of supervised release under the catch-all language of the statute, or if the explicit omission of (b)(11) in the version of the statute that governs all three should be understood as an affirmative limitation on the court’s power.

Federal courts have no inherent power to suspend a sentence or to order probation; their authority derives solely from statutes. Ex parte United States, 242 U.S. 27, 41-52 (1916); United States v. Garcia-Quintanilla, 574 F.3d 295, 300-01 (5th Cir. 2009); Gov’t of the V.I. v. Martinez, 239 F.3d 293, 297 (3d Cir. 2001); Knight v. United States, 73 F.3d 117, 120 (7th Cir. 1995).

One consequence of that rule is that district courts do not have inherent authority to modify sentences as they please; to the contrary, a district court’s discretion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) to modify a sentence is an exception to the statute’s general rule that “the court may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed.” United States v. Cunningham, 554 F.3d 703, 707-08 (7th Cir. 2009). Compare United States v. Randle, 324 F.3d 550, 555 (7th Cir. 2003) (no inherent authority to order restitution).

On the other hand, the statute not only gave the district courts the authority to impose certain specific discretionary conditions of probation (and supervised release, through § 3583), but it also included the catchall phrase “and any other condition it considers to be appropriate.” Those “other” conditions must respect three limitations.

First, the condition must respect the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1) (nature and circumstances of offense and history and characteristics of defendant), (a)(2)(B) (adequate deterrence), (a)(2)(C) (protection of the public), (a)(2)(D) (provision of needed educational or vocational treatment, medical care, etc., for the defendant), (a)(4) (recommended Guidelines sentence), (a)(5) (policy statements from the Sentencing Commission), (a)(6) (avoidance of unwarranted disparities), and (a)(7) (need to provide restitution to victims). See 18 U.S.C. § 3583(c). Second, the condition cannot impose any “greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary” to advance the goals of deterrence, protection of the public, and serving the defendant’s correctional needs. § 3583(d)(2). Third, the condition must be consistent with the Sentencing Commission’s policy statements. § 3583(d)(3). Section 5D1.3(b) of the Guidelines also addresses the imposition of discretionary conditions of supervised release; in general, it mirrors the statutory language.

As we have already noted, the central question is whether §§ 3583 and 3563, before the 2008 amendment, should be understood as making placement in a halfway house an affirmatively unlawful condition of supervised release, see United States v. Gibson, 356 F.3d 761, 767 (7th Cir. 2004), or if it was simply not something that was pre-authorized by law.

We see nothing in the pre-2008 statutory scheme that supports the proposition that Congress intended to make residence in a halfway house flatly illegal.

To the contrary, halfway-house placement has always affirmatively been authorized as a discretionary condition of probation. See 18 U.S.C. § 3563(b)(11). Although it was excluded from the list of discretionary conditions expressly permitted as a condition of supervised release, see 18 U.S.C. § 3583(d) (2007), the statute was otherwise silent about this particular condition.

Now that the question is squarely before us, we conclude that placement in a halfway house should be viewed as a legitimate additional condition not affirmatively authorized by the statute, rather than one expressly forbidden. The district court is therefore free to consider halfway-house placement as a possible condition of supervised release, provided that in the particular cases it complies with the restrictions we have noted above on the use of the catch-all authority.

We hereby REMAND all three cases to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

For the full opinions visit the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Web Site

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