Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Martinez-Gonzalez: Possession of Forgery is "Aggravated Felony"

In U.S. v. Martinez-Gonzalez, No. 10-15360 (Dec. 6, 2011), the Court affirmed the imposition of an eight-level enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2(a), on a defendant convicted of illegal re-entry into the United States, based on a prior conviction for an “aggravated felony”: the defendant’s prior Alabama conviction for possession of a forget document.

The Court rejected the argument that mere possession of a forged document, in contrast to the manufacture or production of forget items, did not constitute an “aggravated felony.” The Court joined all other Circuits to have considered the issue in concluding that possession of a forged document qualifies as an “aggravated felony.” The Court rejected application of the rule of lenity, finding no ambiguity because the vast majority of federal statutes that criminalize forgery proscribe possessing forged instruments or the equipment used to create those instruments.

The Court also rejected a substantive reasonableness challenge to the sentence, noting that the sentence was within the Guidelines and that the sentencing judge cited the evidence from Martinez-Gonzalez’ record of his “propensity to recidivate.”