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Hector Martin Rodriguez-Castellon v. Holder

The Ninth Circuit held that a conviction for California Penal Code section 288(c)(1) (lewd or lascivious act on child 14 or 15 years of age by a person at least 10 years older) is categorically a crime of violence under 18 USC 16(b), and thus is an aggravated felony with a sentence to one year or more.

Section 16(b) requires that the offense be a felony which “by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.” Citing United States v. Ramos-Medina, 706 F.3d 932 (9th Cir. 2012) and Delgado-Hernandez v. Holder, 697 F.3d 1125 (9th Cir. 2012), the court held that there only need be a substantial risk of the use of force in an "ordinary" case prosecuted under the statute. An offense may be a categorical aggravated felony even where there is a possibility that the statute may be violated "at the margin" in a way that does not involve such a risk.

The court found that "in the ordinary case" of 288(c)(1) there is a substantial risk that the perpetrator will use physical force against the victim, since the victim may resist and the adult may use physical force to ensure compliance. The petitioner had argued the statute covered offenses where the victim consented to the conduct, but the court held that such a possibility at the margin was not enough to prevent it from being considered a crime of violence. The court also noted that PC 288(c)(1) requires an age difference of at least 10 years, which in its view made the use of physical force more likely than in consensual statutory rape (where the perpetrator need only be 18 years of age and the victim could be just one day shy of 18).

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