A convicted sex offender should not have been forbidden to use or possess a computer for 30 years after he was released from prison, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
A three-judge panel agreed with prosecutors and the man's lawyer that the restriction was too harsh because it could never be modified over three decades.
Mark Wayne Russell of Columbia, Md., had been caught in a 2006 sex sting trying to meet someone he found through the Internet and believed was a 13-year-old girl.
The judges noted it is often necessary to use a computer to apply for a job, including at McDonald's and PETCO. Russell had served several years in prison and challenged the conditions of his release. The panel ordered a lower court to modify the conditions.
As part of his sentence, Russell was ordered not to own or use a computer "for any reason."
The 15-page appeals court ruling said that isn't fair, particularly to a 50-year-old man who worked for 10 years as an applied systems engineer.
"Even a lot of blue collar work requires some computer use," the judges wrote. "It is totally unsurprising in the realities of the modern world that in his post-release search for employment Russell has evidently found that computer use is required for filling out most job applications."
Such a 30-year ban on computer use hinders Russell's rehabilitation, the judges found.