Skip to content

The Ninth Circuit reversed a conviction for illegal reentry after removal because the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel in the removal proceedings.  The counsel had conceded removability for conviction of a drug trafficking aggravated felony where the immigrant had a Missouri conviction for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.  As in Moncrieffe, the conviction (Missouri Revised Statutes § 195.211) encompassed distribution of a small amount of marijuana for no remuneration, which would not be a felony under the federal Controlled Substance Act and thus not an aggravated felony as the state equivalent of a felony conviction under the Controlled Substance Act.  Moncrieffe had not been decided at the time of the attorney's concession, but a circuit split did exist at the time and the Seventh Circuit (in which the removal proceedings occurred) had not ruled on the issue at the time.

DOWNLOAD (PDF, 122KB)

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.

DOWNLOAD (PDF, 128KB)

In this illegal reentry case, a Ninth Circuit panel held that battery on a peace officer that causes injury in violation of California Penal Code (CPC) section 242/243(c)(2) is categorically a crime of violence under the sentencing equivalent of the definition at 18 U.S.C. 16(a) (effectively tripling the prison exposure).  It found CPC 243(c)(2) requires as an element the willful use of force against the person of another sufficient to cause injury.  It notes a California Court of Appeal decision that equates willful with intentional and thus concludes that a battery willfully inflicted that causes injury is a crime of violence.

Seems reasonable at first glance, except the court glosses over a lot in a way one wouldn't expect for a published decision.  First, the willfulness that the court makes a big deal about is located in the definitional statute at 242.  That willfulness is just the general intent to effect a simple battery.  A simple battery can include any form of unlawful touching--even a push that causes no injury.  And the Ninth Circuit has previously held that a simple battery with that type of intent is not a crime of violence.  Ortega-Mendez v. Gonzales, 450 F.3d 1010 (9th Cir. 2006) (simple battery against a domestic victim is not a crime of violence for purposes of the domestic violence ground of deportability).

It is the resulting injury that triggers the enhanced sentence at 243(c)(2), and the injury need not be intentional.  Thus, pushing a peace officer would be punishable under CPC 243(b) (misdemeanor) if it causes no injury, while the same push with the same level of force would be punishable under CPC 243(c)(2) (felony or misdemeanor) if it causes the cop to trip over something and he needs an ice pack (we are not talking great bodily injury, or GBI, here).  Either way, it does not matter what the defendant intended because there is no element of specific intent to cause injury, just the general intent to complete the contact.

This is why the court's reliance on United States v. Laurico-Yeno, 590 F.3d 818 (9th Cir. 2010) is way off base.  Laurico-Yeno concerned CPC 273.5, which penalizes a person who "willfully inflicts upon [a protected domestic victim] corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition." There, unlike CPC 242/243(c)(2), the injury is willfully inflicted.

It gets worse, though.  The California Court of Appeals opinion that the panel cites for support actually undermines its position.  The discussion of willfulness in People v. Lewis, 15 Cal. Rptr. 3d 891, 901 (CA 4 2004) first notes, "Usually the word "willfully" defines a general intent crime unless the statutory language requires an intent to do some further act or achieve some future consequence."  Therefore, "When the structure of a section requires a willful act followed by some particular result, then it is reasonable to read the willful, i.e., intentional, element as referring only to the initial act and not to the ultimate result. In such sections the word "willfully" does not require the defendant intend the ultimate result, only that he or she intended the initial act." That is precisely why a simple battery that results in injury (that need not be intended) does not comport with the Supreme Court's holding in Leocal that a crime of violence must actually be violent.

Let's hope there is a request for en banc rehearing to reconcile this case with Ortega-Mendez and with the spirit of the Supreme Court's recent decisions.

DOWNLOAD (PDF, 75KB)

The Ninth Circuit held that aggravated assault in violation of Arizona Revised Statute 13-1203 is not categorically a crime of violence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 16(a) because it encompasses reckless conduct in addition to knowing or intentional conduct.  A mens rea of mere recklessness is not enough--the Ninth Circuit has held that at least extreme recklessness is required.  Applying the modified categorical analysis, however, the court found  the defendant pleaded guilty to charges that alleged only intentionally placing the victim in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury.  It thus was a crime of violence.

Since the defendant received a 12 month sentence for this crime of violence conviction, the court held it was an aggravated felony. This aggravated felony conviction precluded voluntary departure in the removal proceedings that followed, so the defendant was not prejudiced when the immigration judge did not advise him about voluntary departure.  The court therefore found he could not collaterally attack the removal order and upheld his conviction for a subsequent attempted illegal reentry with a sentence of 70 months.

DOWNLOAD (PDF, 110KB)

In this criminal prosecution for illegal entry after removal, the Ninth Circuit held that an Arizona conviction for attempted sexual contact with a minor under the age of 15, in violation of ARS 13-1405B, does not meet the federal generic definition of sexual abuse of a minor. It therefore remanded for re-sentencing. It also held, though, that the defendant could not establish prejudice resulted from a violation of his due process rights in the stipulated removal proceedings that preceded his removal because at the time the offense was considered an aggravated felony for sexual abuse of a minor in the Ninth Circuit. It just goes to show how quickly the law can change.

ARS 13-1405B has three elements: (1) a mens rea of “intentionally or knowingly”; (2) an act of “engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact”; and (3) a victim “who is under fifteen years of age.” The court found this did not meet either of the alternative federal generic definitions of sexual abuse of a minor. First, it is not sexual abuse of a minor as statutory rape because Arizona law, unlike federal law, does not require an age difference of 4 years. Second, ARS 13-1405B does not meet the alternative generic definition of sexual abuse of a minor, which requires that: (1) “the conduct proscribed . . . is sexual;” (2) “the statute protects a minor;” and (3) “the statute requires abuse.” Ninth Circuit precedent presumes that sexual contact with a minor under the age of 14 is inherently abusive, but ARS 13-1405B covers both 14 year-olds and those younger than 14. The panel declined to extend that inherent abusiveness presumption to 14 year-olds. Nor did it find any other element of abuse in this offense, since it involves consensual sex.

DOWNLOAD (PDF, 232KB)

The Ninth Circuit assumed without deciding that a grant of temporary resident status pursuant to the legalization provision at INA 245A amounted to an "admission." It held, however, that a termination of the temporary resident status (in this case for convictions) returns an alien to the unlawful status held before the grant of temporary resident status. 8 C.F.R. § 245a.2(u)(4). In this case, Hernandez-Arias previously held the status of an alien present without admission or parole. The court held the termination thus returned him to an unadmitted status, which made him vulnerable to removal for being present without admission or parole.

The court rejected Hernandez-Arias' argument that this return to an unadmitted status would result in a "rescission," which the regulations say is not required for termination of status and which did not occur in his case. The court distinguished a rescission from a termination. Using divorce and annulment as a comparison, it held rescission would result in him never having had temporary resident status and deprive him of any benefits of having had that status. Termination simply ends the status and returns him to the status he had before.

As an alien not admitted or paroled (and apparently not eligible for 245(i) adjustment), the court held Hernandez-Arias was not eligible for a 212(h) waiver of inadmissibility for his criminal convictions. It held he therefore was not prejudiced by the failure of the immigration judge in the removal proceedings to advise him of potential eligibility for 212(h). It therefore upheld his conviction in this case for illegal reentry after removal.

DOWNLOAD (PDF, 126KB)

510-835-1115