Friday, April 11, 2008

Supreme Court's Decision in Lopez Applies at Sentencing

US v. Matamoros-Modesta: Matamoros-Modesta pleaded guilty to illegal reentry. At sentencing, it was determined that he had previously been deported following an "aggravated felony" conviction, in Texas, for possession of cocaine. As a result, his offense level doubled and he was sentenced to 37 months in prison. Between plea and sentencing, the Supreme Court decided Lopez v. Gonzales, 127 S.Ct. 625 (2006), in which the Court held that, in the immigration context, a prior conviction for a drug offense that was a felony offense under state law but not the Controlled Substances Act was not an "aggravated felony." But nobody noticed, so the aggravated sentence was imposed.

On appeal, the Government and defense agreed that the district court plainly erred by imposing the enhanced sentence. The Fourth Circuit agreed, as well, following the lead of numerous other courts in importing Lopez's holding into the sentencing process. It therefore vacated Matamoros-Modesta's sentence and remanded for resentencing.

Congrats to the WDNC FPD office on the win!

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