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United States v. Alvarez

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 23, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARIA DEL ROSARIO ALVAREZ, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

          Before REAVLEY, ELROD, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM:

         Maria Del Rosario Alvarez appeals the district court's sentence requiring her to obtain mental health treatment as a special condition of supervised release. Because the district court committed reversible error in imposing this special condition without the statutorily required factual findings, we VACATE the challenged condition and REMAND for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I.

         A border patrol agent stopped Maria Del Rosario Alvarez at a border patrol checkpoint. Alvarez's sister, her sister's infant, and Agustin Hernandez-Sanchez were all passengers in the car. The agent asked if they were United States citizens, and they all answered yes. The agent then asked for identification, and everyone except Hernandez-Sanchez handed the agent United States birth certificates. The agent then asked Alvarez to park in the secondary inspection area.

         In the secondary inspection area, Hernandez-Sanchez admitted he was illegally present in the United States. Then, Alvarez and Hernandez-Sanchez were arrested. During a search of the car, agents found Alejandro Martinez-Cristobal hiding in the trunk of the car. Martinez-Cristobal was also illegally present in the United States. Alvarez never told agents that there was a person in the trunk, and when agents eventually found Martinez-Cristobal, it was 94 degrees in the trunk.

         Prior to the sentencing hearing, the United States Probation Office prepared a presentence report (PSR) detailing Alvarez's personal background. It reported that Alvarez had no prior criminal history but that she had a history of alcohol use, recommending that the court "consider imposing an education and drug treatment and/or surveillance special condition." Notably, however, the PSR stated that Alvarez "reported no history of mental or emotional health related problems and [its] investigation [had] revealed no information to indicate otherwise."

         Alvarez pleaded guilty to transportation of an undocumented alien, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii), 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(II), and 1324(a)(1)(B)(ii). During the sentencing hearing, Alvarez's counsel asked the district court to consider a departure for aberrant behavior and stated that Alvarez had "suffered extreme abuse and trauma in her very short life."

         The district court sentenced Alvarez to 18 months of imprisonment to be followed by two years of supervised release. The district court then ordered "[s]tandard terms of supervision, along with drug and alcohol treatment, mental health, and that [Alvarez] enroll in a program-educational program designed to receive a high school diploma or its equivalency." During the sentencing hearing, Alvarez did not object to the imposition of a mental health treatment program as a special condition of supervised release.

         Regarding this special condition, the judgment stated:

The defendant is required to participate in a mental health program. Further, the defendant shall participate and shall comply with all rules and regulations of the treatment agency until discharged by the Program Director with the approval of the probation officer. The defendant will incur costs associated with such program, based on ability to pay as determined by the probation officer.

         Alvarez timely filed a ...


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