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United States v. Sandidge

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 17, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Kenneth Sandidge, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued January 11, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 2:12-cr-00159-RL - Rudy Lozano, Judge.

          Before Flaum, Easterbrook, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          Sykes, Circuit Judge.

         Kenneth Sandidge pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and now challenges his sentence for a second time. When the case was last here, we rejected most of his claims of error but remanded for resentencing in light of our recent line of cases requiring a particularized explanation of conditions of supervised release. United States v. Sandidge, 784 F.3d 1055, 1067-70 (7th Cir. 2015); see United States v. Kappes, 782 F.3d 828 (7th Cir. 2015); United States v. Thompson, 777 F.3d 368 (7th Cir. 2015); United States v. Siegel, 753 F.3d 705 (7th Cir. 2014).

         On resentencing the judge imposed revised conditions of supervised release, including a condition prohibiting the "excessive use of alcohol/' defined as including "any use of alcohol that adversely affects [the] defendant's employment, relationships, or ability to comply with the conditions of supervision." Sandidge objected to this condition as imper-missibly vague, but the judge overruled the objection. Sandidge now appeals, reiterating his vagueness challenge.

         Vagueness doctrine is rooted in the constitutional guarantee of due process and requires that legal mandates be clear enough to give fair notice to those who must comply and to guard against arbitrary enforcement. The "adversely affects" language is loose and indeterminate, raising concerns about arbitrariness in enforcement. But the problem can be solved by adding a materiality requirement. We modify the condition to prohibit the use of alcohol that "materially adversely affects the defendant's employment, relationships, or ability to comply with the conditions of supervision." As modified, we affirm the judgment.

         I. Background

         The facts underlying Sandidge's conviction are detailed in our first opinion. See Sandidge, 784 F.3d at 1057-60. Only a brief summary is needed here. Law-enforcement officers in Lake County, Indiana, found a loaded revolver in Sandidge's living room while investigating a report that he attempted to sexually assault a woman at gunpoint. Sandidge pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon, see § 922(g)(1), and the judge imposed a sentence of 92 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release. Sandidge has a history of alcohol abuse, and his drinking played a role in the circumstances that led to his arrest for the § 922(g)(1) offense and in his earlier criminal conduct. So the probation office recommended a special supervised-release condition prohibiting the use of any mood-altering substance. The judge imposed this condition along with several others.

         Sandidge's first appeal raised a number of issues relating to the application of enhancements under the Sentencing Guidelines and also a challenge to the judge's approach to the conditions of supervised release. We found no error in the Guidelines calculation but vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing because the judge did not adequately explain the supervised-release conditions as required by recent circuit caselaw. Sandidge, 784 F.3d at 1063-69. We also noted that the special condition prohibiting "mood-altering substances" was impermissibly vague and overbroad. Id. at 1069 (citing Siegel, 753 F.3d at 713-15).

         On remand the judge imposed revised conditions of supervised release. As relevant here, the conditions include a prohibition on the "excessive use of alcohol, " defined as follows:

This includes "binge drinking" and "heavy drinking." "Binge drinking" is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration levels to 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher. "Heavy drinking" is defined as "consuming fifteen drinks or more per week, " or any use of alcohol that adversely affects [the] defendant's employment, relationships, or ability to comply with the conditions of supervision, or which results in the violation of any local, state, or federal laws including disorderly intoxication or driving under the influence. (Emphasis added.)

         Sandidge lodged a vagueness objection to the highlighted language in this condition, but the judge rejected it. The case now returns to us on that issue alone.

         II. ...


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