United States v. Gonzalez Becerra

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 04-14-2015
  • Case #: 13-50381
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Murphy for the Court; Circuit Judges Gould and Tallman
  • Full Text Opinion

The term “victim,” as shown in the United States Sentencing Guidelines § 2B1.1, is not just limited to fraud victims suffering from a pecuniary harm, but also includes those suffering from physical, financial, dignitary, and proprietary harms.

Carlos Gonzalez Becerra, was convicted of possessing the stolen mail of nearly 250 individuals. The stolen mail contained credit cards, checks, and other documents from the victims. After a guilty plea, a preparation of a presentence investigation report (PSR) was ordered by the district court. The PSR recommended an increase in the sentence by four levels, under the United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) § 2B1.1 Accordingly, the district court increased Becerra’s sentence due to having having injured fifty or more people. Becerra filed and appeal, arguing that U.S.G.G. §2B1.1 did not apply to his case because the state only applies it in causes of fraud and victims who suffer from a monetary loss. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1 is not limited to crimes involving fraud, and the term “victim” includes a broader class of people than those who suffered a pecuniary loss. The panel reasoned that nonlegal and legal dictionaries recognize a “victim” as one who experiences harm to physical, financial, dignitary, and proprietary interests. Therefore, regardless of any monetary harm, the panel found that an individual who is deprived of receiving their mail suffers harm and is a victim within U.S.S.G. §2B1.1. AFFIRMED.

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