Saturday, April 20, 2013

TN statutory rape conviction not “crime of violence” for sentencing enhancement

US v. Rangel-CastanedaRangel-Castaneda received an indictment for one count of illegal re-entry after his arrest in 2010 for driving while impaired and failing to register as a sex offender. He pleaded guilty to this offense in June 2011.  Previously, Rangel-Castaneda had received a conviction in Tennessee for having sex with his then-girlfriend, who was 16 years old at the time, for aggravated statutory rape.  At Rangel-Castaneda’s sentencing for illegal re-entry, the district court considered the Tennessee statutory rape conviction a “crime of violence” for sentencing enhancement purposes.   Rangel-Castaneda appealed the propriety of this sentencing decision.

The Fourth Circuit determined that Rangel-Castaneda’s Tennessee statutory rape conviction was not a “crime of violence” for sentencing enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2(b)(1)(c).   Because Tennessee’s statute sets the age of consent at 18, significantly broader than the generic statutory rape offense across the country (the generic age of consent, based on a canvas of many states’ rape statutes, is 16), the Tennessee statute is overbroad under a “categorical” approach to determine whether a conviction qualifies as a “crime of violence.”  According to the Fourth Circuit, the disparity between the predicate state crime here and Rangel-Castaneda’s contended generic offense “cannot be considered insignificant.”  Moreover, to hold the statutory rape conviction here as a “crime of violence” would criminalize behavior that in neighboring states would be perfectly legal is just the kind of odd and unjust result that the Supreme Court intended to preclude with Taylor v. United States. 

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