United States v. Cruz-Mendez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 01-27-2016
  • Case #: 14-50154
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Senior District Judge Ponsor for the Court; Circuit Judges Rawlinson and Nguyen
  • Full Text Opinion

To be applicable for the “pilot/captain” enhancement, the defendant need only act as operator of a vessel carrying a controlled substance.

Raul Cruz-Mendez was arrested off the coast of Mexico while operating a boat containing over 100 kilograms of marijuana. Cruz-Mendez was also charged with a violation of supervised release conditions. The probation department recommended a two-level “pilot/captain” sentencing enhancement. Cruz-Mendez objected. The district court sentenced Cruz-Mendez to ninety-two months for both charges. Cruz-Mendez appealed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that to be applicable for the “pilot/captain” enhancement, the defendant need only act as operator of a vessel carrying a controlled substance. Defendant incorrectly argued that the enhancement required special skills. The panel rejected that argument finding sometimes even operators lack the skills required but still must be held liable. AFFIRMED.

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