Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Maryland First-Degree Burglary Conviction Not "Crime of Violence"

US v. Henriquez: Henriquez pleaded guilty to illegal reentry.  His advisory Guideline range included a 16-level enhancement for have been previously convicted of a "crime of violence" - a 2000 first-degree burglary conviction in Maryland.  The district court overruled Henriquez's objection that the Maryland burglary statute is broader than the "generic" burglary recognized by the Supreme Court and imposed a within-Guideline sentence of 41 months.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit vacated that sentence, 2-1, after concluding that the enhancement was improper.  For illegal reentry purposes, the definition of crime of violence includes "burglary of a dwelling," which the court has recognized previously matches the definition of "generic" burglary promulgated by the Supreme Court.  Although the Maryland statute does specify that it only applies to burglary of a dwelling, it does not define "dwelling."  As a result, Maryland courts have defined the term as being broader than just a home (extending it to include RVs and unoccupied apartments), broadening the definition beyond that set forth by the Supreme Court.  Applying the categorical approach, the court concluded that it was not clear whether Henriquez's 2000 conviction involved a home or one of the places specifically excluded by the Supreme Court, such as a boat or a car.  Therefore, it was error to enhance his sentence.

Judge Motz dissented, arguing that the majority misconstrued Maryland court decisions on the scope of the burglary statute.

Congrats to the Defender office in Maryland on the win!

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