By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
A court cannot require a federal criminal defendant to abstain from consuming alcohol as a condition of supervised release where nothing in the record suggests a relationship between the crime and alcohol consumption, or that the defendant abused alcohol in the past, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
Vacating Marcus Brandon Betts’ sentence and remanding for resentencing, a unanimous panel held that U.S. District Judge David O. Carter of the Central District of California abused his discretion when he imposed the condition because Carter made no individualized determination that the condition bore a reasonable relationship to rehabilitating Betts, protecting the public, or providing adequate deterrence.
Writing for the panel, Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld said:
“Moderate consumption of alcohol does not rise to the dignity of our sacred liberties, such as freedom of speech,” he wrote, “but the freedom to drink a beer while sitting in a recliner and watching a football game is nevertheless a liberty people have, and it is probably exercised by more people than the liberty to publish a political opinion.”