Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Valarezo-Orobio: Scutting of vessel was "reasonably foreseeable"

In U.S. v. Valarezo-Orobio, No. 10-11222 (March 23, 2011), the Court upheld the imposition of an eight-level Guideline enhancement on a defendant convicted of operating a semi-submersible vessel in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2285. The enhancement applies when the offense involves “the sinking of the vessel.” Valarezo-Orobio claimed that the sinking of the vessel was not reasonably foreseeable to him, and was done by his co-defendants.

Rejecting this argument, the Court noted that it is “well-known that semi-submersible vessels are frequently scuttled when confronted by authorities.” Moreover, “the overall speed with which the scuttling of the vessel occurred further supports the inference that the entire crew was aware of a standing plan to sink the vessel if faced with apprehension by authorities.”