U.S. v. Arzate-Nunez, ARZATE-NUNE

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtGOODWIN
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Filemonefendant-Appellant.
Decision Date28 February 1994
Docket NumberNo. 93-30129,D,ARZATE-NUNE

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18 F.3d 730
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Filemon ARZATE-NUNEZ, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 93-30129.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted Feb. 1, 1994.
Decided Feb. 28, 1994.

Page 732

R. John Sloan, Jr., Omak, Washington, for the defendant-appellant.

Earl A. Hicks, Assistant United States Attorney, Spokane, Washington, for the plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.

Before: GOODWIN, SCHROEDER and NORRIS, Circuit Judges.

GOODWIN, Circuit Judge:

Filemon Arzate-Nunez appeals his guilty plea conviction of being an alien in the United States after deportation and conviction of an aggravated felony. 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1326(b)(2). He argues that the district court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment and in accepting his conditional guilty plea. We affirm.

I. FACTS & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Arzate-Nunez is a citizen of Mexico who has spent significant time in the United States. In 1985, he was convicted in California state court of the sale or transportation of a narcotic, a felony under California Health & Safety Code Sec. 11352. He served less than 90 days in jail. In January 1992, he was again arrested by officers investigating a drug conspiracy. The federal District Court of Washington, Eastern Division dismissed the charges arising out of this incident without prejudice. However, on April 4, 1992, the INS deported Arzate-Nunez based on his immigration status. Before his deportation, the INS sent Arzate-Nunez a warning letter stating that "any deported person who within five years returns without permission is guilty of a felony ... [and] may be punished by imprisonment of not more than two years and/or a fine of not more than $1,000.00."

In early December 1992, Arzate-Nunez reentered the United States. According to his counsel, Arzate-Nunez showed his passport to a United States Border Patrol agent on duty at the Tijuana, Mexican Border Patrol Post. After glancing at the passport, which was apparently valid from December 30, 1987 through December 29, 1992, the border patrol agent waived Arzate-Nunez through the checkpoint.

On December 4, 1992, federal agents investigating a Washington state drug conspiracy obtained a warrant to search a certain yellow Thunderbird car. Several of the investigating agents had also been involved in the investigation that led to Arzate-Nunez's January 1992 arrest and deportation. On December 6, these agents recognized Arzate-Nunez as a passenger in the yellow Thunderbird. Since they knew Arzate-Nunez had been deported less than eight months previously, they advised other agents that Arzate-Nunez was in the country illegally.

On December 7, 1992, agents watching the yellow Thunderbird again saw Arzate-Nunez in the car. When the vehicle headed south out of Okanogan County, they stopped the car and arrested Arzate-Nunez for being an alien in the United States after deportation.

Arzate-Nunez was subsequently indicted under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1326(b)(2), under which an alien who reenters the country without permission after being deported "subsequent to a conviction for commission of an aggravated felony" may be sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. 1 The government alleged that Arzate-Nunez's 1985 state drug conviction was an aggravated felony within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1101(a)(43).

Arzate-Nunez timely moved to dismiss the indictment based on the ex post facto clause and the language of 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1101(a)(43). He also argued that his arrest may have violated the Fourth Amendment and moved to discover the affidavit filed in support of the search warrant, which was filed under seal. The government opposed this discovery motion, contending that disclosing the affidavit would compromise ongoing drug investigations and endanger police informants

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and arguing that the legality of the search warrant was irrelevant to Arzate-Nunez's case. According to the government, the agents had an independent legal basis to stop the yellow Thunderbird because they recognized Arzate-Nunez as a person who had been deported.

At a March 5 pretrial conference, federal agents testified that they had recognized Arzate-Nunez before stopping the car. In addition, Arzate-Nunez produced the 1992 INS warning letter, alleging that the INS's inaccurate notice about the possible penalties for reentry violated his due process rights. The district court rejected Arzate-Nunez's ex post facto, statutory interpretation and Fourth Amendment claims orally and rejected the due process argument in a written order four days later.

Thereafter, Arzate-Nunez entered a conditional guilty plea agreement pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(a)(2), reserving his right to appeal "the denial of his motion to dismiss filed February 26, 1992." At the plea taking, Arzate-Nunez's lawyer argued for the first time that Arzate-Nunez could not be guilty of entering the country without permission because the border patrol agent waived him across the Tijuana checkpoint, thereby consenting to his reentry. After determining that counsel had warned Arzate-Nunez that he might waive this defense if he pled guilty, the district court accepted Arzate-Nunez's guilty plea. The court then sentenced Arzate-Nunez to forty-one months of incarceration and two years of supervised release, as recommended in the written plea agreement. Arzate-Nunez appealed.

II. EX POST FACTO CLAIM

Arzate-Nunez argues that his conviction violates the ex post facto clause because, at the time of his 1985 offense, his crime was not defined as an aggravated felony. The state statute under which he was convicted, California Health & Safety Code Sec. 11352, defined his offense as a regular, rather than an aggravated, felony. Federal law did not define his offense as an aggravated felony until 1988, and the Sentencing Guidelines which provide for enhanced penalties for reentry following an aggravated felony were not effective until November 1991. See 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1101(a)(43) (defining "illicit trafficking in any controlled substance" as an aggravated felony); U.S.S.G. Sec. 2L1.2 (providing for a sixteen-point upward adjustment in the base offense level of defendants who were deported after being convicted of an aggravated felony).

We review an alleged ex post facto violation de novo. United States v. Baker, 10 F.3d 1374, 1394 (9th Cir.1993), amended (1993) (citing United States v. Kohl, 972 F.2d 294, 297 (9th Cir.1992)).

The ex post facto clause bars any law which "imposes a punishment for an act which was not punishable at the time [the act] was committed, or any law which imposes punishment greater than the punishment prescribed when the act was committed." United States v. Crozier, 777 F.2d 1376, 1383 (9th Cir.1985). Thus, a law which aggravates a crime or makes it greater than it was when it was committed violates the ex post facto clause. Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U.S. 37, 110 S.Ct. 2715, 111 L.Ed.2d 30 (1990). In order to prove an ex post facto violation, a defendant must show (1) that the law at issue disadvantages him and (2) that the law is retrospective, in that it applies to events occurring before its enactment. United States v. Schram, 9 F.3d 741, 742 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 482, 126 L.Ed.2d 433 (1993) (citing Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 29, 101 S.Ct. 960, 964, 67 L.Ed.2d 17 (1981)).

Arzate-Nunez has shown that the federal laws at issue in this case disadvantage him. In 1988, federal law redefined Arzate-Nunez's 1985 felony as an aggravated felony and increased the penalty for reentering the country from a maximum of five years to a maximum of fifteen years. 2 8

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U.S.C. Secs. 1101(a)(43), 1326(b)(2). In addition, the 1991 amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines impose a sixteen-point increase in Arzate-Nunez's base offense level. 3 U.S.S.G. Sec. 2L1.2.

The more difficult question is whether these laws were applied retrospectively. The "key ex post facto inquiry is the actual state of the law at the time the defendant perpetrated the offense." Watson v. Estelle, 886 F.2d 1093, 1096 (9th Cir.1989). Thus, whether Secs. 1326(b)(2) and 1101(a)(43) were applied retrospectively to Arzate-Nunez depends on whether "the offense" for ex post facto purposes is Arzate-Nunez's December, 1992 illegal entry into the country or the conduct which led to his 1985 state drug conviction. Is the enhanced sentence a punishment for Arzate-Nunez's reentry or for the conduct which led to his 1985 conviction?

Although this precise issue appears to be a question of first impression, most case law suggests that Arzate-Nunez's offense for ex post facto purposes is his 1992 reentry. For purposes of analyzing repeat offender statutes and statutes increasing penalties for future crimes based on past crimes, the relevant "offense" is the current crime, not the predicate crime. United States v. Carson, 988 F.2d 80, 81 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 142, 126 L.Ed.2d 105 (1993) (provisions of the Sentencing Guidelines which increase the penalties for past crimes may be applied to defendants whose past crimes were committed before the Guidelines at issue); United States v. Ahumada-Avalos, 875 F.2d 681, 683 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 837, 110 S.Ct. 118, 107 L.Ed.2d 79 (1989) (no ex post facto violation where sentence was enhanced because of a prior drug conviction which occurred before the enhancement statute was enacted).

Arzate-Nunez attempts to distinguish these cases by arguing that, under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1326(b)(2), commission of an aggravated felony is an element of the offense. See, e.g., United States v. Vieira-Candelario, 811 F.Supp. 762, 768 (D.R.I.1993). However, we have also held that the relevant offense for laws prohibiting ex-felons from carrying firearms is the offense of carrying a firearm, not the predicate felony. United States v. Huss, 7 F.3d 1444, 1447 (9th...

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67 practice notes
  • United States v. Kelly, No. 16-10460.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 30, 2017
    ...unknowing or involuntary. See United States v. Speelman , 431 F.3d 1226, 1229 (9th Cir. 2005) ; see also United States v. Arzate-Nunez , 18 F.3d 730, 737 (9th Cir. 1994) ("A defendant who enters a conditional guilty plea ... must state in writing any issues he wishes to reserve for appeal a......
  • U.S. v. Cabaccang, No. 98-10159.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 6, 2003
    ...engaged, then "we must choose the interpretation least likely to impose penalties unintended by Congress." United States v. Arzate-Nunez, 18 F.3d 730, 736 (9th Cir.1994). 23. Our decision therefore is not inconsistent with the result — if not the reasoning — reached by the Fifth Circuit in ......
  • Ralbovsky v. Kane, No. 04-1041-CJC (RC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • December 16, 2005
    ...future crimes based on past crimes, the relevant `offense' is the current crime, not the predicate crime." United States v. Arzate-Nunez, 18 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir.1994) (emphasis added). Here, petitioner committed his current offenses in 2001, well after the Three Strikes law was enacted. ......
  • Moore v. CHRONES, No. CV 03-9543-PSG (MAN).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • January 14, 2010
    ...present offense, not the timing of the earlier offenses utilized as priors for enhancement purposes. See United States v. Arzate-Nunez, 18 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir.1994) ("For purposes of analyzing repeat offender statutes and statutes increasing penalties for future offenses based on past cr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
67 cases
  • United States v. Kelly, No. 16-10460.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 30, 2017
    ...unknowing or involuntary. See United States v. Speelman , 431 F.3d 1226, 1229 (9th Cir. 2005) ; see also United States v. Arzate-Nunez , 18 F.3d 730, 737 (9th Cir. 1994) ("A defendant who enters a conditional guilty plea ... must state in writing any issues he wishes to reserve for appeal a......
  • U.S. v. Cabaccang, No. 98-10159.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 6, 2003
    ...engaged, then "we must choose the interpretation least likely to impose penalties unintended by Congress." United States v. Arzate-Nunez, 18 F.3d 730, 736 (9th Cir.1994). 23. Our decision therefore is not inconsistent with the result — if not the reasoning — reached by the Fifth Circuit in ......
  • Ralbovsky v. Kane, No. 04-1041-CJC (RC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • December 16, 2005
    ...future crimes based on past crimes, the relevant `offense' is the current crime, not the predicate crime." United States v. Arzate-Nunez, 18 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir.1994) (emphasis added). Here, petitioner committed his current offenses in 2001, well after the Three Strikes law was enacted. ......
  • Moore v. CHRONES, No. CV 03-9543-PSG (MAN).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • January 14, 2010
    ...present offense, not the timing of the earlier offenses utilized as priors for enhancement purposes. See United States v. Arzate-Nunez, 18 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir.1994) ("For purposes of analyzing repeat offender statutes and statutes increasing penalties for future offenses based on past cr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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