United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Clifford Shirley, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge
case is before the Court on the Motion of Defendant Sherry
Ann Fetzer for Return of Her Passport [Doc. 428], filed on
January 25, 2017, and referred [Doc. 456] to the undersigned
on February 28, 2017. The Defendant asks for the return of
her passport, which she surrendered to the United States
Probation Office as a condition of her pretrial release. The
motion states that the Government opposes the return of the
Defendant's passport because the Defendant is not able to
travel outside the country as a condition of her probation.
The parties appeared for a hearing on the motion on March 21,
2017. Assistant United States Attorney Frank M. Dale, Jr.
appeared on behalf of the Government. Attorneys Donald A.
Bosch and Ann C. Short represented Defendant Fetzer, who was
of background, the Court observes that on October 9, 2014,
Defendant Fetzer was arraigned and placed on conditions of
pretrial release [Doc. 17], which included immediately
surrendering her passport to the United States Probation
office and restricting her travel to the Eastern District of
Tennessee, unless her supervising probation officer granted
permission for travel outside the district. On May 31, 2016,
Defendant Fetzer entered a guilty plea before District Judge
Reeves. On January 20, 2017, Judge Reeves sentenced [Doc.
420] the Defendant to three years of probation. The
conditions of probation include that the Defendant not leave
the district without the permission of the probation officer.
The conditions of probation do not require that the Defendant
surrender her passport. On January 25, the Defendant moved
for the return of her passport.
hearing, Attorney Bosch stated that upon conviction and
sentencing of a defendant, the probation office sends
retained passports to the State Department. He argued that
Defendant Fetzer sought the return of her passport in order
to avoid the protracted procedures for reapplying for a
passport after her three-year term of probation ends. He
stated that the Defendant has no present plans to travel
outside of the country and that, if she did want to travel
internationally, she would seek permission from her probation
officer. He also argued that the Defendant could use her
passport as a form of identification in the interim. Finally,
Mr. Bosch stated that Defendant Fetzer's passport was up
for renewal in June of 2018. He said that in order to renew
her passport, the Defendant would have to mail the expiring
passport to the State Department. Thus, he argued that the
Defendant would not be able to renew her passport unless it
is returned to her.
Dale stated that the Government opposed the return of the
Defendant's passport. He acknowledged that a felony
conviction did not prevent a defendant from applying for or
retaining a passport, 1 but he stated that Defendant Fetzer
had no reason to retain her passport 1 The Court notes that a
felon convicted of drug trafficking is prohibited from
applying for or retaining a passport, “if the
individual used a passport or otherwise crossed an
international border in committing the offense.” 22
U.S.C. § 2714(a)(1). While Defendant Fetzer stands
convicted of a felony drug offense, both the Indictment and
the facts set out in the Defendant's plea agreement state
the offense occurred in the Eastern District of Tennessee.
because she was barred from travel outside the district,
including international travel without permission, as a
condition of her probation. He also argued that a passport is
the property of the government, not of a defendant.
Court questioned United States Probation Officers Corey
Miller and April Wilson, who were also present at the
hearing. Probation Officers Miller and Wilson stated that
pursuant to the Court's order, the Probation Office could
retain Defendant Fetzer's passport, rather than sending
it to the State Department.
Court finds that the Defendant has not demonstrated a valid
reason for the return of her passport at this time. The
conditions of probation imposed by Judge Reeves prevent the
Defendant from traveling outside the district unless she
first obtains permission from her probation officer. The
Defendant states that she presently has no plans to travel
outside of the country. The Court cannot think of a valid
reason why a person with no plans to travel outside of the
country and with no current permission to do so would need a
passport. Accordingly, the Court finds that requiring the
Probation Office to retain the Defendant's passport until
the end of her term of probation furthers Judge Reeves'
condition that the Defendant not travel outside the district
without permission, while also giving the Defendant the
option to travel abroad, if she receives permission to do so,
without having to reapply for her passport. If the
Defendant's probation officer approves travel outside of
the country, the probation officer may return the
Defendant's passport for the duration of the
Defendant's trip. Following any pre-approved trip out of
the country, the Defendant must return her passport to her
probation officer until her probationary term ends. The Court
instructed Probation Officers Miller and Wilson to
investigate whether the Defendant could renew her passport by
sending it from their office and asking that the State
Department mail her renewed passport back to their office.
The Court further instructed the Probation Officers to advise
the Court if there are any requests (or plans) made to send
the passport to the State Department because that could alter
this Court's decision on the issue.
Accordingly, the Court ORDERS as follows:
(1) The Motion of Defendant Sherry Ann Fetzer for Return of
Her Passport [Doc. 428] is DENIED;
(2) The United States Probation Office for the Eastern
District of Tennessee is ORDERED to retain the
Defendant's passport for the duration of her three-year
probationary term; and
(3) If the probation officer gives Defendant Fetzer
permission to travel outside of the country, the probation
officer shall return the Defendant's passport to the
Defendant for the duration of her trip. The Defendant shall
return her passport to her probation officer within
seventy-two (72) hours of her return to the district
following a pre-approved trip out of the country.