United States v. Mendez-Sosa

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 03-02-2015
  • Case #: 13-10664
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curium; Circuit Judges Wallace, Smith, and Friedland
  • Full Text Opinion

The applicable definition of “conviction” for purposes of implementing sentencing guidelines in the immigration context is to be found in federal law, not state law.

Juan Alberto Mendez-Sosa appealed the district court’s sentence of thirty-seven months in prison after Mendez-Sosa pled guilty to unlawfully reentering into the United States following his deportation. Applying federal sentencing guidelines, the district judge “assessed a 16-level sentencing enhancement” because Mendez-Sosa had a prior conviction that constituted a “crime of violence” under the Criminal Sexual Contact under the New Jersey Criminal Justice Conduct Code section 2C:14-3(b). Mendez-Sosa alleged no conviction ensued of a prior offense because New Jersey law and the Immigration and Nationality Act did not define the term “conviction,” and that even if there were a conviction of a prior offense, such conviction would not be considered a “crime of violence.” On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that any federal sentencing enhancement provisions do not depend on state law, but, rather, are defined under uniform federal law. The panel held that the district judge property applied the 16-level sentencing enhancement because there was a prior guilty plea. Further, the panel held that Mendez-Sosa’s crime was a “crime of violence” because it constituted a “forcible sex offense” as defined by the federal sentencing guidelines, which include any offense where the victim did not consent. Given that New Jersey law contained “alternatives that do not involve the absence of consent,” the district court did not err in its determination. AFFIRMED.

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