United States v. Gonzalez Vazquez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 06-18-2013
  • Case #: 11-30176
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Kleinfeld for the Court: Circuit Judges Schroeder and M. Smith, Jr.
  • Full Text Opinion

To order government compliance with a plea agreement, the record must support evidence that either an agreement occurred or defendant detrimentally relied on a promise made during plea-bargaining, and a defendant's prior conviction cannot be counted as a criminal history point under U.S.S.G. § 4A1.2(c)(1)(A) where the prior conviction is dissimilar to the federal conviction and did not amount to probation.

Victor Gonzalez Vazquez was arrested during a traffic stop for failure to produce registration and proof of insurance and driving on a suspended license. Upon searching the vehicle, police discovered Gonzalez Vazquez’s fingerprints on a bag of methamphetamine and a drug ledger. Gonzalez Vazquez was charged with possession with intent to distribute. During pretrial plea negotiations, the defense attorney and prosecutor discussed a possible "safety valve" relief option to avoid a statutory mandatory minimum sentence, depending on Gonzalez Vazquez’s "proffered interview." After the interview went badly, the prosecutor made a less favorable offer to which parties never agreed. The district court found that the parties never reached an agreement and convicted and sentenced Gonzalez Vazquez to 144 months imprisonment based on calculations under U.S.S.G. § 4A1.2(c)(1)(A), which added a criminal history point to the sentencing matrix for a prior conviction of driving with a suspended license and bumped up Gonzalez Vazquez to Criminal History Category II. Defendant appealed the conviction and sentence contending the Ninth Circuit should order the government to comply with the "safety valve" relief promise and that the district court improperly sentenced him using the prior conviction. The panel rejected the first contention because nothing in the record suggested a deal was agreed to or that Gonzalez Vazquez detrimentally relied on a promise. However, the panel agreed it was in error to add the prior conviction to calculate criminal history points because a sentence for driving with a suspended license should not be counted when the federal conviction is dissimilar and when the prior sentence did not amount to probation. Under Washington law, the sentence did not amount to probation because the conditions of the sentence did not impose restrictions or terms beyond those required of law-abiding citizens. CONVICTION AFFIRMED; SENTENCE VACATED and REMANDED.

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