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Courts May Order Sexual Offender Assessment as Release Condition

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a district court can require a sexual offender assessment -- not treatment, just an assessment -- as a condition of supervised release when the defendant had a history of sexual violence involving weapons and his current offense involves a weapon.

The appellate court reasoned that this type of assessment was "no greater deprivation of liberty than was reasonably necessary" to punish, deter, protect the public from or rehabilitate the defendant.

David Louis Johnson pleaded guilty to knowing and unlawful possession of a firearm. The district court sentenced him to five years of supervised release subject to special conditions. At the suggestion of the Probation Office, the district court later modified the sentence to require that Johnson undergo a sexual offender assessment as an additional condition of his supervised release.

Johnson had two previous sexual offense convictions. In 1980, he raped a 19-year-old woman twice at knife point. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for rape, sodomy, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. In 1990, Johnson raped a 14-year-old girl at gunpoint. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison for rape.

Though Johnson claims that he underwent sexual offense treatment in the past, the Probation Office was unable to verify this claim.

The district court acknowledged that Johnson's sexual offense convictions were dated, but it also found that a sexual offender assessment was a "very minor restraint on liberty." Ultimately, the court decided that its "obligation for the safety of the public, as well as the rehabilitation of this defendant" justified the sexual offender assessment condition.

Here, the appellate court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the sexual offender assessment because Johnson was twice convicted of serious and violent sexual offenses, and his current offense involved possession of the same sort of weapon he used as a sexual offender. The panel noted, "Johnson's history as a sexual offender, old as it may be, justified the district court's decision to order a sexual offender assessment."

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