Medina-Lara v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 09-19-2014
  • Case #: 13-70491
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Hawkins for the Court; Circuit Judges Noonan and Christen
  • Full Text Opinion

The government bears the burden of establishing by clear and convincing evidence that a California Health & Safety Code § 11351 conviction is a controlled substance or an aggravated felony offense.

Jose Medina-Lara petitioned for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision authorizing his removal to Mexico, after his California state conviction of an aggravated felony, controlled substance offense, and firearm offense. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit used a three-step process for determining whether a specific conviction is a predicate offense mandating removal under the Immigration Nationality Act (“INA”) for Medina-Lara’s California Health & Safety Code (“CHS”) § 11351 violation, and California Penal Code (“CPC”) §12022(c) violation. The panel looked at all three issues of breadth, divisibility, and the modified categorical approach. The panel held that the government did not show a clear and convincing link between the abstract and the charging papers. There are crucial ambiguities within the two documents which led the panel to hold by looking at the elements to which Medina-Lara pleaded guilty, it is not clear he pleaded guilty to an aggravated felony or controlled substance offense. Therefore, Medina-Lara’s CHS § 11351 conviction was neither an aggravated felony nor a controlled substance offense under the INA. The panel also held that former CPC § 12001(b), which was the ruling definition of “firearm” at the time of Medina-Lara’s conviction, was overbroad. The panel further held that the statute was indivisible and that the modified categorical approach could not be applied. The panel granted Medina-Lara’s petition for review, vacated the removal order, and remanded to the agency with an instruction to grant Medina-Lara's motion to terminate proceedings. PETITION GRANTED, VACATED and REMANDED with instructions.

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