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United States v. Thompson, et al., No. 14-1316  

In considering four consolidated cases, the Court of Appeals held that district court’s must consider the § 3553(a) factors when imposing all non-mandatory conditions of supervised release, including standard conditions of supervised release.

Supervised release, in contrast to parole, consists of restrictions, imposed by the judge at sentencing, called conditions or terms of supervised release, that are to take effect when the defendant is released from prison and continue for a specified term of years (which can be life). Supervised release does not shorten prison time.

The Court rejected the government’s argument that the standard conditions of supervised release were administrative in nature and held that even if the defense and the government have agreed on a sentence, the district court has an independent duty to determine whether a sentence conforms with the statutory sentencing factors. The Court held that many of the 13 standard conditions of supervised release were “hopelessly vague,” “inappropriate,” “fatally vague,” “unnecessary,” “riddled with ambiguities,” and “too broad in the absence of any effort by the district court to explain why they are needed.”

The Court noted that supervised release is not required in every case so the first decision the district court must make is whether a term of supervised release is appropriate in the individual case.

If the court determines a term is appropriate, then certain conditions are administratively appropriate. However, the vast majority require specific, individualized findings.

The Court reversed and remanded for full resentencings, stating, “[W]e vacate the entire sentences because reconsideration of those conditions may conceivably induce one or more of the judges to alter the prison sentence that he imposed.

For more about Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Michael J. Petro, visit  or call 312-913-1111