The Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, overruled its erroneous precedent on the maximum potential sentence to imprisonment for California misdemeanors and its precedent that California Penal Code (CPC) section 245 (assault with a deadly weapon) is a categorical crime involving moral turpitude. It also found unpersuasive a Board decision from 1947 that held a CPC 245 conviction involved moral turpitude, since that decision did not apply the categorical analysis. The court remanded to the Board to determine in the first instance whether CPC 245 is a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). It further urged the Board to issue a publish decision promptly.
I, for one, am not optimistic the Board will quickly provide a published decision. A prompt answer certainly is important, since CPC 245 is a very common conviction and immigrants should be able to know whether it is a CIMT before deciding to give up their constitutional rights by entering a guilty plea to it. As the Ninth Circuit recognized, though, the question is a difficult one. On one hand, the element of a deadly weapon (a firearm in subsection (a)(2)) makes the offense more serious. However, assault does not require actual injury or even physical contact. Further, the court noted assault is a general intent crime that does not require an intent to injure or a conscious disregard of an unreasonable risk of injury (or, more precisely, it does not require an intent to create an apprehension of a completed battery or a conscious disregard of an unreasonable risk of creating an apprehension of a completed battery). So, I think the Board will struggle with this, which would be unfortunate.