What is a Reasonable Condition of Probation?

There are some judges who get in the habit of “always” making certain activity prohibited as a condition of probation.  Perhaps no condition is more frequently set than prohibiting the use of alcohol. So, a recent Eighth Circuit case is worth noting.

In United States v. Woodall, the Appellant was convicted and sentenced for failing to register as a sex offender.  As a condition of supervised release, the sentencing court prohibited Appellant from consuming alcohol or entering bars or similar establishments.  The Eighth Circuit struck this condition, noting that Appellant only lightly consumed alcohol and occasionally used marijuana.  Absent evidence that Appellant was “drug dependent,” or that alcohol spurred his criminal behavior, the court held that the condition could not be justified.

The district court had rejected Mr. Woodall’s objection to the special condition relating to alcohol prohibitions.  The court based its imposition of the condition on its conclusion that “[t]here’s codependence between marijuana or other street drugs and alcohol.  When a person who has a history of substance abuse can’t use illegal drugs, they frequently will resort to alcohol, and that’s the basis for the alcohol condition.”

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