Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rape Via Lack of Consent Is "Forcible Sex Offense"

US v. Chacon: Chacon is a Honduran citizen who entered the US illegally and was deported following a conviction in Maryland for second-degree rape. Afterwards, Chacon again entered the country illegally, this time using false ID documents. He pleaded guilty to illegal reentry and fraud. At sentencing, he was assessed a 16-level enhancement under 2L1.2(b)(1)(A) because his Maryland conviction constituted a "crime of violence." Chacon objected, arguing it was merely an aggravated felony (an 8-level enhancement). The district court disagreed and sentenced Chacon to 41 months in prison.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed, dealing with the first time with the issue of whether a sexual offense committed based on lack of consent, as opposed to physical force, constituted a "forcible sex offense" and, therefore, a crime of violence. The Maryland information to which Chacon pleaded guilty did not specify which of the three subsections he violated - rape by force, rape of a person unable to give consent, or statutory rape. The Fourth Circuit began by noting that it was clear that the first and third provisions were forcible sex offenses by the language in the Guidelines. As to the second provision, noting a circuit split on the issue, the court held that sex offenses committed based on the inability to give consent are forcible sex offenses. Thus, the court affirmed Chacon's sentence.

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