Tuesday, November 10, 2009

16-Level Enhancement Requires Actual Trafficking in Prior Offense

US v. Maroquin-Bran: Maroquin-Bran was deported following a 1989 conviction in California for "the crime of SALE OR TRANSPORTATION OF MARIJUANA" (yelling in original statute). He reentered the country illegally in 2002 and was charged with illegal reentry in 2007. After pleading guilty, the main issue at sentencing was whether Maroquin-Bran's prior conviction was a "drug trafficking conviction" that triggered the 16-level enhancement under USSG 2K1.2(b)(1)(A). The district court concluded that it was and sentenced to Maroquin-Bran to 57 months in prison, the bottom of the resulting Guideline range.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed and vacated for further proceedings. Following in the footsteps of every other circuit to resolve the issue, the court held that in order for the enhancement to apply, the specific offense that the defendant was convicted of committing must be a "drug trafficking offense." It is not enough that the statute under which the conviction was obtained includes both trafficking and non-trafficking offenses. In other words, if the same statute addresses possession and distribution, the enhancement only applies if the prior conviction was actually for distribution, not possession. Because the district court was without that guidance initially, the court remanded the case for a determination of whether Maroquin-Bran's actual conviction was a drug trafficking conviction.

Congrats to the EDNC defender office on the win!

No comments: