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Decided: March 11, 2014

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court by holding that a defendant’s term of supervised release does not commence while he remains in federal custody pending the resolution of his status under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (the “Act”).

In 1999, Defendant Jeffrey Neuhauser pled guilty to one count of interstate travel with intent to engage in sex with a minor and one count of distribution of child pornography. The court sentenced him to 109 months and an additional five years of supervised release. Just two weeks before his release, the Government certified Neuhauser as a “sexually dangerous person” under the Act. The certification stayed Neuhauser’s release from prison for four and a half years, but the district court ultimately held that Neuhauser did not qualify as a “sexually dangerous person” and released Neuhauser. Six months after his release, Neuhauser moved to terminate his five-year period of supervised release on the grounds that his four and half-year confinement under the Act counted toward his five year supervised release period. The district court disagreed and held that Neuhauser’s supervised release period did not begin until he was released from prison confinement. Neuhauser appealed.

On appeal, Neuhauser argued that the district court erred by finding that his “supervised release” began only after being released from physical custody, and instead contended that his “supervised release” began on the date that his prison sentence ended. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court. Under the Act, “a defendant’s ‘term of supervised released commences on the day the person is released from imprisonment.’” Neuhauser argued that his “imprisonment” only lasted as long as the government detained him as punishment for a crime. The Fourth Circuit dismissed his argument, explaining that the term “imprisonment” “evinces no necessary link to criminal punishment.” Furthermore, in other legal contexts, such as a period of detention before conviction, the term “imprisonment” does not describe service of a criminal sentence. Moreover, the Act itself explains that a period of supervised release is tolled “when a person is imprisoned in connection with a conviction.” Finally, the court concluded a broad reading of the term “imprisonment” comports with the Act’s policy of protecting children. Therefore, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court and held that Neuhauser had not satisfied his period of supervised release.

Full Opinion

– Wesley B. Lambert