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In this illegal reentry decision, the Ninth Circuit held that firearms convictions under state statues that encompass both "antique" and non-antique firearms do not satisfy the federal ground of deportability for conviction of a firearms offense. The defendant here had been removed for conviction under such a statute, so the court found the removal order invalid and reversed the conviction.

The federal definition referenced by the firearms ground of deportability explicitly excludes antique firearms, while former section 12021(c)(1) of the California Penal Code, does not. In other words, there is no complete match between the two definitions and a conviction for the California offense should not categorically trigger deportability. The Ninth Circuit previously had resisted this logic, primarily because the antique firearms exception is an affirmative defense in a federal prosecution. In Moncrieffe, the Supreme Court found, albeit in dicta, that whether it is an affirmative defense or not does not matter. What matters is the congruence between the definitions. An offense meets a federal definition only if all of the conduct penalized by it meets the definition, including the least culpable conduct that there is a "realistic probability" of the state prosecuting. Aguilar-Rios cited cases showing California regularly prosecuted offenses involving antique firearms under PC 12021(c)(1), so the least culpable conduct for a conviction clearly did not meet the federal firearms definition.

Moreover, as in the marijuana statute at issue in Moncrieffe, former California PC 12021(c)(1) was not divisible into alternative, separately defined offenses involving antique or not-antique firearms. Thus, the court held it could not examine the record of conviction to try to determine whether Aguilera-Rios's offense actually involved an antique firearm.

Although this decision concerned a firearms statute that existed before the Deadly Weapons Recodification Act of 2010 went into effect on January 1, 2012, it should apply equally to offenses under the reorganized statute that do not distinguish between antique and non-antique firearms. This would include current sections 25400(a), 27500, 29800, and 33215 of the Penal code, according to the ILRC.

Finally, I should point out that the panel's decision confusingly states Aguilera-Rios's "conviction is not a categorical match for the federal aggravated felony" definition. This apparently is an error, since the recited facts indicate Aguilera-Rios was only found deportable for conviction of a firearms offense, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C), not a firearms aggravated felony. This error is not significant, though, since both reference the same federal definition of a firearm.


In this criminal appeal, the Ninth Circuit upheld a sentencing enhancement for prior convictions for crimes of violence despite a variance in the availability of an affirmative defense. The district court imposed the enhancement in this illegal reentry case because the defendant had previous California convictions for attempted murder and kidnapping. He had argued California attempt was not a categorical match to the generic definition of a crime of violence because California does not provide for the affirmative defense of voluntary abandonment, while the majority of jurisdictions and the Model Penal Code do.

The court held that Ninth Circuit precedent, e.g., United States v. Velasquez-Bosque, 601 F.3d 955, 963 (9th Cir. 2010), compelled it to reject Albino-Loe's argument. It found that the Supreme Court's decision in Moncrieffe v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 1678 (2013) did not undermine that precedent. The court distinguished Moncrieffe because it did not involve an affirmative defense, but rather a sentencing exception that defined whether the offense was a felony or misdemeanor.