United States v. Aguilar-Vera

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 10-29-2012
  • Case #: 10-10333
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bea for the Court; Circuit Judges Wallace and D. Nelson
  • Full Text Opinion

The sentencing process violates Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(b)(2) if the presiding judicial officer does not address the defendant individually to determine whether the plea is being entered voluntarily. However, if that violation does not substantially affect the defendant's rights, the error is harmless.

Gilberto Aguilar-Vera was arrested and charged with misdemeanor illegal entry by an alien in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1325. Under “Operation Streamline,” a process combining the hearing process for petty misdemeanors into one hearing, a magistrate in Arizona federal court heard his guilty plea. Aguilar-Vera appealed, claiming that his plea violated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(b)(2): “[b]efore accepting a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, the court must address the defendant personally in open court and determine that the plea is voluntary and did not result from force, threats, or promises (other than promises in a plea agreement).” During the mass hearings, Aguilar-Vera’s attorney filed an objection stating that Aguilar-Vera’s plea had violated Rules 11(b)(1) and (b)(2). However, the written objection was not reviewed before the judgment was entered. On appeal, the Court found errors in this sentencing process. Aguilar-Vera waited an hour between when the magistrate collectively read the defendants their rights and when Aguilar-Vera entered his plea. The Court noted the potential for confusion among defendants, because not all of the defendants were charged under the same statute. Furthermore, the magistrate did not determine whether Aguilar-Vera’s plea was voluntary, though his attorney did make a statement to that effect. The magistrate did not address Aguilar-Vera personally, which Aguilar-Vera contended violated Rule 11(b)(2). However, the Court found these errors harmless, because they did not affect Aguilar-Vera’s substantial rights. The Court further determined that Aguilar-Vera understood the guilty plea, and entered it voluntarily. AFFIRMED.

Advanced Search