United States v. Lin

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 12-24-2013
  • Case #: 11-10576
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Watford for the Court; Chief Judges Kozinski and Fisher
  • Full Text Opinion

18 U.S.C. § 1546(a) does not “criminalize the mere possession of an unlawfully obtained…driver's license.”

Wei Lin, a Chinese national, possessed two unlawfully obtained driver's licenses from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. While in the United States, a federal immigration agent, through a translator, questioned Lin about his possession of any "identification documents." Lin claimed he had no such documents because they had been confiscated. The agent took Lin to a field office where the licenses were discovered. Lin was charged with offenses under both 18 U.S.C. § 1546 and 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). Section 1546 criminalizes the "fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents," among other offenses. To convict Lin on that charge, the statute requires the government to prove he (1) possessed one of the specified documents, and (2) knew the document had been obtained unlawfully or fraudulently. At trial, Lin admitted that he knew the documents were obtained unlawfully but challenged the first element of the crime, arguing that driver's licenses are not covered by section 1546. Lin was convicted on both charges. On appeal, the government contended that the driver's licenses fell under "other documents." The Ninth Circuit held for Lin, reasoning that the statute was never meant to include driver's licenses. The panel also denied the government's concerns regarding the IRCA-mandated verification process because section 1546(b), not 1546, properly governs that process. Finally, the panel upheld Lin's conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2), reasoning that a rational jury could find that Lin knew what documents the federal immigration agent was asking and Lin knowing and willfully lied about his possession of them. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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