United States v. Ayala-Nicanor

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-14-2011
  • Case #: 10-50069
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wardlaw for the Court; Circuit Judge Goodwin and District Judge Cogan
  • Full Text Opinion

A categorical crime of violence warrants an increased offense level during the sentencing phase if the statutory definition complies with the federal definition and no state cases have applied the statute more broadly than the federal definition.

Ayala-Nicanor plead guilty to being in the United States after being previously deported. The district court imposed a 16-level increase to Ayala’s offense level because of a conviction prior to his deportation that was classified as a “categorical crime of violence” and warranted the offense level increase. Ayala was convicted of a “corporal injury to a spouse, in violation of California Penal Code section 273.5.” Ayala contended that California’s statute was too broad and can include “non-violent least touching” that the Supreme Court has held as invalid when applied to increase a sentence. The relevant section required a traumatic condition that was “a wound or external or internal injury” that was caused by physical force. The Court affirmed section 273.5 as a “categorical crime of violence” that warrants an increased offense level. The Court held that the statutory definition is not broader than the federal definition which requires violent force that is “capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.” The Court also found that there was no California cases that applied the statute outside of this definition and no “realistic possibility” that it would be applied incorrectly. Finally, the Court held that the district court did not commit a procedural error in imposing an increased explanation because the court had a sufficient explanation.

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