Decided: April 15, 2015
The Fourth Circuit held that North Carolina’s second-degree kidnapping statute constituted a “crime of violence” so as to justify a 16-level sentence enhancement pursuant to United States Sentencing Guidelines §2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii) for a prior conviction of a crime of violence. Accordingly, it affirmed the enhancement of Flores-Granados’s conviction of illegal reentry to the United States after deportation based on a prior second-degree kidnapping conviction in North Carolina.
Flores-Granados was convicted of two counts of second-degree kidnapping in North Carolina state court in 2007 and deported to Honduras thereafter. At some point before August 5, 2013, when he was arrested in Virginia for possession of a controlled substance and assault and battery, he reentered the United States illegally. Sometime afterwards, he pled guilty to a charge of illegal reentry. While the initial pre-sentence investigative report recommended only an 8-level enhancement for a previous conviction of an aggravated felony, the government argued, and the probation office agreed, that the prior kidnapping convictions constituted crimes of violence so as to warrant a 16-level sentence enhancement. The trial court agreed with the 16-level enhancement, noting that it did not accept the enhancement based merely on the title of the offense but on Flores-Granados’s use of a gun, threats, and a screwdriver to stab the victim, which illustrated that the crime was indeed one of violence.
While affirming the sentence enhancement, the Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in referring to facts of the offense in enhancing Flores-Granados’s sentence rather than relying on a “categorical generic definition” of the offense to determine if the following elements were satisfied: (1) the unlawful restraint or confinement of another, (2) by force, threat, or deception (or, in the case of minors, without parental consent), and (3) either (a) for a specific nefarious purpose or (b) in a manner substantially interfering with the victim’s liberty. In defining these elements, the court relied on the United States Supreme Court’s test for a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which adopts the “generic, contemporary meaning” of a crime. Comparing North Carolina’s statute with the MPC’s and other states’, the court held that North Carolina’s statutory framework was not broader than the generic meaning, particularly because it explicitly required nefarious intent. Given this requirement, the court held that all requisite elements had been met and upheld Flores-Granados’s sentence.
Kayla M. Porter