Ramirez v. Lynch

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 01-20-2016
  • Case #: 08-72896
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judge Wardlaw and District Judge Kennelly
  • Full Text Opinion

When a state’s statutory definition for a crime of violence is broader than the federal definition, it cannot constitute a crime of violence that merits deportation.

In 1992, Hector Giovanni Ramirez became a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Eight years later, Ramirez was convicted of felony child abuse under California Penal Code § 273a(a), which the California Court of Appeals affirmed. Upon Ramirez’s release from prison, the Department of Homeland Security succeeded in its deportation proceedings against Ramirez; the immigration judge finding that Ramirez’s “crime of violence” constituted an “aggravated felony” which is grounds for deportation under federal law. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirmed the immigration judge and Ramirez filed a timely petition for review. The Ninth Circuit granted Ramirez’s petition and remanded. After comparing § 273a(a) against the analogous federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 17, the panel determined that the state definition of a crime of violence was broader than the federal definition as it includes passive, negligent conduct, rather than strictly “affirmative ‘use’ of force” requirements. Thus, violation of § 273a(a) does not qualify as a “crime of violence.” Additionally, the panel reversed the BIA’s finding that § 273a(a) is divisible, noting that “the alternative mens rea requirements [in the statute] are not elements but are rather alternative means for accomplishing a single indivisible crime.” As such, Ramirez’s § 273a(a) conviction was not an aggravated felony. Petition GRANTED and REMANDED.

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