Texas Aggravated Assault with Deadly Weapon Conviction Is Generic “Aggravated Assault” even though Judgment of Conviction Had No Affirmative Weapon Finding
United States v. Sanchez-Sanchez, No. 14-10305 (5th Cir. Feb. 24, 2015) (Higginbotham, Smith, Graves)
This case involved the reliability of a judgment of conviction to determine that Sanchez-Sanchez’s prior state conviction constituted “aggravated assault” in the generic sense to support the 16-level enhancement under § 2L1.2.
The parties agreed that Sanchez-Sanchez was convicted under the Texas aggravated assault statute, Tex. Penal Code § 22.02(a). Section 22.02(a) contains offenses that are COVs (such as assault with a deadly weapon) and ones that are not (such as simple assault on a peace officer). Under the modified categorical approach, the panel can rely on Shepard documents to narrow Sanchez-Sanchez’s conviction to a specific offense under § 22.02(a).
Sanchez-Sanchez pled guilty in Texas to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and the indictment alone would establish a conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Sanchez-Sanchez argues, however, that the judgment casts doubt on whether he was convicted under that subsection because the judgment does not make an affirmative finding as to the use of a deadly weapon.
The panel concludes that the judgment is not inconsistent with the indictment because, in Texas, an “affirmative finding” that a deadly weapon was used is significant only for the determination of whether probation or parole can be granted. “In other words, the failure to make such an affirmative finding relates to sentencing, not to the underlying offense conduct.” The panel discusses competing interpretations by lower Texas appellate courts about the trial court’s discretion to decline to enter the affirmative finding in the judgment, but concludes that this disagreement does not change the holdings by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on which the panel relies. “The absence of an affirmative finding does not amount to a finding that the offense did not involve a deadly weapon.” The sentence is affirmed.
The updated § 2L1.2 Crime of Violence list is available on fd.org.