Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Maryland Offense of "Causing Abuse to a Child" Is Not "Crime of Violence"

US v. Carbrera-Umanzor: This is another case tacking the issue of whether a prior conviction is a "crime of violence," this time for purposes of the illegal reentry Guideline and its accompanying 16-level enhancement.  The district court concluded that Carbrera-Umanzor's prior Maryland conviction for "causing abuse to a child" qualified as a crime of violence.  It did so after concluding that the "modified categorical" approach applied, because the Maryland statute could be committed in some ways that would constitute a crime of violence.  The district court then concluded "without considering the elements of the state crime" that having sex with an 11-year old (as Carbrera-Umanzor, who was 19 at the time, was accused of doing) was a forcible sex offense and a crime of violence.  As a result, the enhancement applied on Carbrera-Umanzor was sentenced to 41 months in prison.

The Fourth Circuit reversed and vacated Carbrera-Umanzor's sentence.  Noting that the district court sentencing occurred before both the Fourth Circuit's recent decision in Gomez and the Supreme Court's decision in Deschamps, the court first found that the Maryland statute is not divisible, for categorical analysis purposes.  It is "generally divisible" - it can be committed in different ways - but the modified categorical approach applies "only if at least one of the categories into which the state may be divided constitutes, by its elements, a crime of violence."  Those elements, the court held, "simply do not line up with the elements of any of the potentially applicable crimes of violence" set forth in the Guideline.  The court then went on to conclude that the Maryland statute did not, categorically, set forth a crime violence.

Congrats to the Defender office in DMD on the win!

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