United States District Judge John Acosta issued an erroneous opinion from the bench that incorrectly categorized a technical violation of a supervised release condition as not being technical based on the technicalities of the technical violation. A technical violation of supervised release is not just a statement of opinion regarding whether or not an individual considers the nature of a violation to be technical or not. A technical violation has its own meaning defined in Chapter 7 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG) and is part of a category called Grade C:
"Grade C Violations -- conduct constituting (A) a federal, state, or local offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of one year or less; or (B) a violation of any other condition of supervision. " - USSG 7B1.1
Chapter 7 Part A. explains the recommended approach to technical violations when it explains the three categories. From the first paragraph of Part A one can fairly easily figure out what constitutes a technical violation and what category a technical violation belongs in:
"The revocation policy statements categorize violations of probation and supervised release in three broad classifications ranging from serious new felonious criminal conduct to less serious criminal conduct and technical violations. The grade of the violation, together with the violators criminal history category calculated at the time of the initial sentencing, fix the applicable sentencing range. " USSG Chapter 7 Part A
From that a lay person can fairly easily determine that a violation of a condition of supervision that does not constitute a new crime constitutes a technical violation since it is listed last after "serious new felonious conduct" and "less serious criminal conduct." Grade A is for felonies punishable by more than 1 year in prison that are violent crimes, drug crimes, gun crimes, or any felony punishable by more than 20 years. Grade B is for any new crime punishable by more than one year. By process of elimination Grade C clearly involves misdemeanors punishable by less than a year or a technical violation of supervision that does not constitute a new crime. From that one can fairly easily conclude that when someone on supervised release violates a condition of that release and that conduct is not a crime, then a technical violation has taken place.
Judge John Acosta seems to think that some technical violations that do not amount to a new offense are not technical if they involve disobeying a court order even if that court order was just an order imposing terms of release. In United States v. Cyrus Sullivan (D.C. Case Number 3:17-CR-00306-JGZ) Judge Acosta made the following statement at a pre-trial release hearing:
"It's not a technical violation when someone disobeys a court order or the probation officer's directives. That's not technical. That's a real violation." -Judge John Victor Acosta
Clearly Congress disagreed with Judge Acosta long before he made that statement and as a result wrote the law to include "disobey[ing] a court order or the probation officer's directives" under the umbrella of technical violations. Such behavior does not rise to a criminal offense and therefore under USSG Chapter 7 can only be considered technical violations.