Monday, April 14, 2008

Court Defines "Abuse" in Sex Offnse/Immigration Context

US v. Diaz-Ibarra: Diaz-Ibarra was deported in 1995 following his conviction in Georgia for committing an "immoral or indecent act to or in the presence of a" minor. After returning to the United States without permission, Diaz-Ibarra pleaded guilty to illegal reentry following an aggravated felony. At sentencing, the probation officer recommended that Diaz-Ibarra's sentence be increased 16 levels because his Georgia conviction constituted a crime of violence under USSG 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii). The district court overruled Diaz-Ibarra's objection and applied the enhancement, sentencing him to 78 months in prison.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed, concluding that Diaz-Ibarra's prior conviction was a crime of violence. Specifically, "crime of violence" in 2L1.2 is defined as including "sexual abuse of a minor." Diaz-Ibarra conceded that his offense was "sexual" and involved a minor, but argued but it was not "abuse." Applying a definition of abuse that goes well beyond the common sense one, the court concluded that "abuse" included situations where there is no physical contact between the assailant and minor where the assailant intends to gratify himself sexually, regardless of the effect on the victim. Given that definition, Diaz-Ibarra's Georgia conviction constituted sexual abuse of a minor and, thus, a crime of violence.

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