United States v. Valenzuela-Arisqueta

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-01-2013
  • Case #: 12-10596
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Callahan for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and Ripple
  • Full Text Opinion

A judge may enhance a sentence under 8 U.S.C. § 1326(b)(2) for a prior conviction, even if it is not cited on the indictment; it is improper to accept a plea under Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 if the defendant is not aware of the maximum sentence at the time of the plea, and double jeopardy does not apply if a plea is rejected.

Victor Valenzuela-Arisquesta (“Valenzuela”) appealed the district court’s rejection of his guilty plea for violating 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a). Before pleading guilty, Valenzuela was informed that the maximum sentence was two years. The plea agreement was conditioned on the premise that Valenzuela had no felony, aggravated felony, or violent crime convictions. If one of these conditions was met, the government reserved the right to revoke the offer. After the plea, it was discovered that Valenzuela had previously pled guilty to an aggravated felony. The government withdrew its offer. The district court granted the government’s motion to withdraw from the plea agreement, continued sentencing, and allowed Valenzuela to take back his guilty plea. The concern became that the original guilty plea did not satisfy Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 because Valenzuela did not know the maximum possible penalty he faced. There were also potential double jeopardy issues. This appeal followed. Valenzuela argued that because he was only charged under 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a), § 1326(b)(2), which provides enhanced sentencing in situations such as when a prior aggravated felony has been committed, did not apply to him. However, the panel’s prior opinions showed that the prior conviction is not necessarily required in the indictment to allow use of § 1326(b)(2)’s sentencing enhancements. The panel agreed with the district court’s rejection of Valenzuela’s guilty plea because it did not conform to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11. In regards to the issue of double jeopardy, jeopardy attaches when a guilty plea is accepted. Because there had been no “termination of jeopardy,” double jeopardy did not apply in this case. Finally, the panel noted that this opinion prevents any “future attempt to seek an interlocutory appeal from a similar rejection of a guilty plea.” AFFIRMED.

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