Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, February 15, 2021

Maradiaga: Affirming Conviction for Use of Fraudulent Immigration Document

In United States v. Maradiaga, No. 19-11889 (Feb. 12, 2021) (Wilson, Lagoa, Hull), the Court affirmed defendant's conviction for use of a fraudulent immigration document, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a).    

Defendant used an order of supervision from the Department of Homeland Security to obtain a Florida driver's license.  He was charged with one count of knowingly possessing and using a document prescribed by statute and regulation as evidence of authorized stay in the United States, specifically, an ICE order of supervision, which he knew to be forged, counterfeited, altered, and falsely made.  He proceeded to trial and was found guilty.  On appeal, he argued the following: (1) his conviction must be vacated because he was charged with and convicted of conduct that does not constitute a crime within the meaning of § 1546(a); (2) the district court's jury instruction on the elements of § 1546(a) offense constructively amended the indictment; and (3) comments by the government during closing arguments misled the jury and improperly bolstered a government witness.

As to the first issue, the Court relied upon its prior decision in United States v. Chinchilla, No. 19-10987 (11th Cir. Feb. 11, 2021), in finding that orders of supervision fall within the scope of § 1546(a).  

As to the second issue, the Court found that any error was invited because defendant proposed the very jury instruction he was challenging on appeal, and failed to object to the instruction at trial.  Additionally, were the Court to review the error, any review would be for plain error, and defendant could not show any prejudice.

As to the third issue, while the Court agreed that some of the government's statements in closing were misleading, defendant's challenge failed because he could not show prejudice.