Chavez-Reyes v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 01-27-2014
  • Case #: 10-70776
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Graber for the Court; Circuit Judges O’Scannlain and Nguyen
  • Full Text Opinion

In removal proceedings under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(C)(i), a court may consider a voluntary guilty plea in determining whether the police had "'reason to believe' that Petitioner engaged or assisted in illicit trafficking of drugs" when the conviction is overturned for "a reason unrelated to the voluntariness of the guilty plea."

In 1989, police arrested petitioner Manuel Chavez-Reyes after a traffic stop during which they discovered 900 pounds of cocaine in his vehicle. Chavez-Reyes was the only person in the vehicle. He pleaded guilty to "possession of cocaine with an intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)" and was convicted. Upon appeal, the court overturned his conviction because it found that the police lacked "sufficient suspicion" to stop the petitioner. The government initiated removal proceedings under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(C)(i), which does not require a criminal conviction as grounds for removal; it only requires that the police had "'reason to believe' that Petitioner engaged or assisted in illicit trafficking of drugs." Chavez-Reyes appealed to the Board of Immigration (BIA) on the grounds that the ruling violated his due process rights. The BIA panel denied his appeal, and Chavez-Reyes appealed the BIA decision. The Ninth Circuit held that the BIA did not violate Chavez-Reyes' due process rights because, even though it overturned his conviction, his guilty plea could still be considered in determining whether the police had "reason to believe that [he] engaged or assisted in illicit trafficking of drugs" in his removal proceedings. The panel explained that it overturned his conviction for "a reason unrelated to the voluntariness of the guilty plea," and he did not present any reason to persuade the court that his guilty plea was unreliable (thus "render[ing] his proceeding 'fundamentally unfair'"). Petition DENIED.

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