Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, October 09, 2015

Carpenter: No plain error in imposing lifetime computer restriction

In U.S. v. Carpenter, No. 14-13177 (Oct. 7, 2015), the Court affirmed a 97-month term of incarceration followed by a lifetime term of supervisory for a defendant convicted of possession of child pornography. Citing its prior decision in U.S. v. Cubero, the Court held that the Sentencing Commission’s 2012 Report critical of the child pornography guidelines did not heighten a district court’s need to explain why it was imposing a within-Guidelines sentence, or require a downward variance. The Court held that Carpenter “invited” the district court to impose a lifetime, having “repeatedly asked the court to impose a life term.” The Court noted that Carpenter did not say that a life term of supervised release was appropriate only if the sentencing court granted a downward variance. The Court added that this argument would have been unavailing because the length of a prison term has “no bearing” the need for subsequent supervision. In addition, on appeal, a defendant cannot complain of the result of a strategic decision. The Court also rejected Carpenter’s challenge to a ban on his possessing a computer or adult pornography. The Court noted that Carpenter did not raise this objection at sentencing, so the issue was reviewed for “plain error.” The Court noted that no prior case had prohibited a lifetime ban on the usage of a computer (outside the context of employment). There was therefore no plain error. There also was no precedent barring the restriction of all forms of pornography. The Court noted that the Circuits are split on this issue, and therefore there can be no plain error. In a footnote, the Court pointed out that the district court could shorten or terminate Carpenter’s supervised release.