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United States v. Hobbs

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 14, 2016

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Cynthia Louise Hobbs Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: September 21, 2016

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines

          Before RILEY, Chief Judge, MURPHY and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

          SMITH, Circuit Judge.

         A special condition of Cynthia Hobbs's supervised release prohibits her from "direct, indirect, or electronic contact" with her husband. Because the record does not support this sweeping restriction on her important constitutional right of marriage, we vacate and remand for resentencing.

         I. Background

         In 2009, Hobbs and her husband were charged with aggravated identity theft and conspiring to commit bank fraud. They pleaded guilty. Hobbs was sentenced to 56 months' imprisonment and 5 years' supervised release. Her husband was sentenced to 80 months' imprisonment and 5 years' supervised release. They were ordered jointly to pay approximately $18, 000 in restitution.

         Hobbs entered supervision in November 2014. At first she did well. Then, in January 2016, probation moved to revoke her supervised release, alleging four violations of her release conditions. First, Hobbs moved from her registered address without telling her probation officer. Second, she failed to submit to a required urinalysis. Third, she left her job at McDonald's without telling her probation officer. (These first three violations happened in January 2016.) And fourth, Hobbs stopped making restitution payments in August 2015, the month her husband was released.

         In April 2016, Hobbs appeared before the court and admitted the violations. Noting Hobbs's cooperation, the government asked that her release be modified rather than revoked. The government also asked the court to impose a condition of "no contact with her husband."

         The hearing focused on the no-contact issue. The court expressed concern that Hobbs's violations were connected to her husband's release. "My understanding from speaking with the probation officer and reviewing the record, " said the court, "is that Ms. Hobbs was doing very well on supervision when she was living independently and Mr. Hobbs was still incarcerated." "And then, " the court went on, "this contact occurs with her spouse, and those positive steps forward cease and, in fact, she absconds from supervision. That time line seems to the court to be instructive." A probation officer established Mr. Hobbs's release date but did not establish that Hobbs had had any contact with her husband since his release.

         The court then outlined its revocation sentence: 30 days' imprisonment and no marital contact.[1] The court emphasized the coincidence of Hobbs's noncompliance and her husband's release: "The court finds that the time line related to the release of her co-defendant and the introduction, reintroduction of her spouse, Jack Hobbs, into her home and her life . . . was one factor that appears to have contributed to the violations that occurred here." The court acknowledged the constitutional implications of substantially restraining Hobbs's marital liberties, but it considered the restrictions reasonably necessary for the remaining three-and-a-half years of her supervision.

         The court entered an order modifying Hobbs's supervised release to include this condition:

The defendant shall have no direct, indirect, or electronic contact with codefendant and husband, Jack Hobbs, during her ...

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