Torres v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: June 29, 2015
  • Case #: 14-1096
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 764 F.3d 152
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether a state offense constitutes an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43) when the state offense is "described in" a specified federal statute.

Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, an alien is ineligible for cancellation of removal if he has committed an "aggravated felony," §8 U.S.C. § 1229b(a)(3). Under the statute 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43), an "aggravated felony" includes some crimes identified by their generic names and other crimes 'described in' or 'defined in' sections of the U.S. code. Petitioner, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., was convicted in 1999 of attempted arson in the third degree, a violation of New York Penal Law. He was sentenced to one day of imprisonment and five years of probation. After a trip abroad, Petitioner sought admission to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. The Immigration and Naturalization Service determined Petitioner was inadmissible as alien, due to his prior conviction of a crime involving "moral turpitude". Petitioner applied for cancellation of removal. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) concluded the conviction would stand, and the Petitioner was not eligible for lawful permanent residence. The Third Circuit vacated the BIA's ruling, concluding that the state statute did not qualify as aggravated felony as it was missing the federal jurisdictional element. The Second Circuit overruled the Third Circuit, concluding the BIA's decision was the proper ruling.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari because of a circuit split in states where several federal criminal statutes are not identical to the state statute 'equivalent', containing an extra element including "interstate commerce". The state statute contained three elements for arson, while the federal state equivalent contained four elements, including "used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce".

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