Defendant’s underlying sex offense convictions related to the possession of child pornography. He also admitted to watching adult pornography on the internet. On that basis, the government argued for special conditions of release banning Mr. Ellis from possessing pornography or accessing the internet.

The court ordered two special conditions of probation, “[t]hat he have no Internet access” and “that he shall not possess any legal or illegal pornographic material, nor shall he enter any location where such materials can be accessed, obtained, or viewed, including pictures, photographs, books, writings, drawings, videos, or video games.”

The Defendant’s attorney argued the pornography restriction “would prohibit him from going into libraries, bookstores, and convenience stores.”. And the internet ban would create unnecessary difficulty “in accessing information as well as accessing potential job opportunities.”

The appellate court found no evidence connecting the internet to any criminal conduct. His only federal offense—failing to register as a sex offender—did not involve the internet. The court further found that even though he was convicted of crimes that are often carried out online, those convictions alone do not justify an internet ban under § 3583(d) absent some evidence of his own illegal internet activity.

The 4th Circuit held that district court abused its discretion in imposing an outright ban on internet access and on possessing legal pornography or entering any location where it may be accessed.

https://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinions/194159.P.pdf

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