Thursday, August 31, 2006

Aggravated felony - forgery sentence less than a year qualifies where loss exceeded $10,000

Lawful permanent resident was convicted of forging a check in the amount of greater than $10,000 and sentenced to four months imprisonment. In removal proceedings, the Immigration Judge and BIA found him removable as an aggravated felon, and he appealed. The definition of aggravated felony, 18 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43), contains two provisions that appear to be in conflict as they apply to the case. Subsection (M)(i) states that an offense "that involves fraud or deceit in which the loss to the victim exceeds $10,000" is an aggravated felony, whereas subsection (R) states that "an offense relating to . . . forgery . . . for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year" is an aggravated felony. The alien argued that the provision relating specifically to forgery should apply to him.
The Third Circuit rejected the alien’s argument and determined that he was an aggravated felon. Bobb v. Attorney General, No. 05-2891, 2006 WL 2193065 (3d Cir. Aug. 3, 2006). While it found the alien’s statutory construction argument "inviting," it concluded that Congress intended that both provisions be given broad reach. Reasoning that someone can commit an offense "related to forgery" without necessarily intending to defraud or deceive, the Court concluded that giving both provisions broad reach did not render either provision surplusage. The Court also rejected the alien’s argument that his was a "hybrid" offense (which would require all requirements of both provisions to be met), because the hybrid offense analysis applies only where the specific provision (in this case forgery) is a lesser included offense of the broader category (offense involving fraud or deceit).

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The District Court's indication of the sentence it would impose before the defendant allocuted was not reversible plain error.

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