AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law
for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities


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Probation

     A man served a sentence for attempted sexual abuse and then was placed on probation. He was required to enroll in a sex offender treatment program while on probation and was refused admission to the program since he refused to admit his guilt before the program began and instead invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. When his probation was then revoked, he sued his probation officer and therapist. The trial judge, screening the pro se in forma pauperis complaint, dismissed the lawsuit on the basis of qualified immunity. A federal appeals court reversed and remanded for further proceedings because the facts alleged in the complaint did not foreclose the possibility that the plaintiff could have overcome qualified immunity. Chavez v. Robinson, #14-35384, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 5765 (9th Cir.).
     A man who served 20 years for sexual assault was then placed on probation. A state court ruled that a sentencing order ordering probation after the 20-year sentence had been illegal, because the sentencing court lacked authority to suspend all of the additional 30-year sentence (5 years of which he would have had to serve) authorized by state law to be imposed on him after the 20 years as a persistent felony offender because of a prior burglary conviction. Strangely enough, in some respects, he now sought, on that basis, to collect damages against correctional authorities who had released him from prison years too early, placing him on probation. The federal appeals court rejected this argument, holding that prison officials had absolute immunity for liability for conduct dictated by facially valid court orders. Engebretson v. Mahoney, #10-35626, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 10887 (9th Cir.).
     A man convicted of attempted sexual abuse of an unconscious 16-year-old intoxicated girl was ordered, as a special condition of his supervised release, on probation not to reside with, or be in the company of, any child under age 18, including his own daughters, and not to socialize with or date anyone with such children, including his own fiancée. A federal appeals court vacated that condition, ordering further proceedings. The fundamental right to associate with one's family is a particularly significant liberty interest and the condition was imposed without making any explicit findings supported by evidence that the condition was necessary for deterrence, protection of the public and rehabilitation, and were not broader than necessary. As there was no evidence in the record supporting the need for such restrictions, the special condition at issue could not be reimposed on remand. The court below could consider whether it was necessary to impose similarly but more narrow restrictions. U.S. v. Wolf Child, #11-30241, 699 F.3d 1082 (9th Cir. 2012).
      A man pled guilty to charges of false imprisonment and was placed on probation and released from custody. His probation officer required him to register as a sex offender and be placed in a sex offender probation unit. This was based on the probation officer's mistaken belief that the man's victim had been a minor. He sued, and got his name removed from the sex offender registry and himself from the sex offender probation unit. The plaintiff stated a valid claim against the probation officer for violation of his civil rights. The defamatory harm of being wrongly placed on sex offender status without procedural due process satisfied a "stigma plus" requirement for civil liability for such actions. The probation officer was not entitled to qualified immunity on the procedural due process claim, but substantive due process and equal protection claims were properly rejected. Claims for supervisory liability against the Secretary of the state Department of Corrections were rejected on the basis of qualified immunity, since there was no showing that he was personally involved in the action or that the probation officer acted on the basis of any policy he was responsible for. Brown v. Montoya, #10-2269, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 22533 (10th Cir.).
    Federal probationer who was charged with a violation of federal law in relation to the use of explosives was entitled to a modification of the conditions of his probation to prevent the U.S. Probation Department from obtaining a DNA sample from him under the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 14135-14135e. While the probationer had a lessened expectation of privacy when it came to searches of his person and home, the obtaining of a DNA sample was a "highly intrusive" search, so that the DNA Act was unconstitutional as applied to him. U.S. v. Stewart, No. 05-10062, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 745 (D. Mass.). [N/R]
     Pennsylvania probation officials and employees could not be held liable for a probationer's murder of the 8-year-old sister of his 12-year-old victim based on the failure to act more promptly in seeking to revoke his probation after he violated its conditions by attempting to continue a relationship with the 12-year-old whose morals he had previously been convicted of "corrupting." Mere inaction or failure to act swiftly did not constitute a "state-created danger." Bright v. Westmoreland County, No. 05-2005, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 8074 (3d Cir.). [2006 JB May]
     Parole officials were not entitled to absolute immunity for allegedly refusing to investigate a parolee's claim that the revocation of his probation had been overturned, and that therefore he should not be on parole. Dawson v. Newman, No. 04-2894, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 17487 (7th Cir.). [2005 JB Oct]
     Removal of offender from home detention program for failure to obtain full-time employment was a deprivation of liberty, entitling him to due process, but county community corrections agency did not order him jailed, since only a court had the power to do so. The plaintiff was arrested under a warrant and spent 3 days in custody. A subsequent court hearing determined that he was mentally disabled, and therefore excused from the condition of obtaining full time employment. He was then reinstated in the home detention program. If there was any erroneous deprivation of due process, it was by the probation officer and the state court that issued the arrest warrant at the officer's request. No civil rights claim could be pursued against the community corrections agency for merely reporting to the probation officer a probable violation of a condition of probation. Paige v. Hudson, #02-4317, 341 F.3d 642 (7th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
     Threats to kill county jail staff members on more than one occasion were sufficient to support the revocation of a prisoner's probation. The threats were made while he was serving a 90 day sentence in the jail as one of the conditions of probation, and there was evidence that he was shown a videotape notifying him of the jail's rules, including the rules against threatening staff members. State v. Payne, No. COA02-809, 577 S.E.2d 166 (N.C. App. 2003). [N/R]
     U.S. Supreme Court upholds warrantless searches of a probationer's home without probable cause as a condition of probation; evidence uncovered in one such search, conducted by a sheriff's detective with reasonable suspicion, did not need to be suppressed. United States v. Knights, No. 00-1260, 121 S. Ct. 1955 (2001). [2002 JB Feb]
      272:122 Requiring atheist probationer to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as a condition of probation violated his First Amendment rights, but award of $1 in nominal damages was proper, since county probation officials would not have had reason to believe, at the time, that this was a violation of his rights. Warner v. Orange Co. Dept. of Probation, #95-7055, 173 F.3d 120 (2nd Cir. 1999).
     [N/R] Probation employees were entitled to absolute immunity from liability from claim that they submitted an inaccurate presentence report in connection with a prisoner's conviction. Hill v. Sciarrotta, #97-2161, 140 F.3d 210 (2nd Cir. 1998).

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