Monday, November 26, 2007

Documents Established That FL 2d Degree Burglary Conviction Was for "Burglary of a Dwelling" & Thus a §2L1.2 COV

United States v. Castillo-Morales, No. 07-40053 (5th Cir. Nov. 8, 2007) (Jones, DeMoss, Stewart)

Under the categorical approach, a court is generally precluded from relying on documents such as complaint applications when determining whether a prior conviction was for a generic offense, such as burglary. That's the holding of Shepard v. United States. But what if the record from the prior conviction shows that the defendant admitted that the facts alleged in the complaint were true? In that case, the complaint is fair game. That's the holding of Castillo-Morales.

Castillo, who pled guilty to illegal reentry, had a prior Florida conviction for second degree burglary. The Florida statute applies to "dwellings," among other things, and the term "dwelling" includes the building itself, as well as the building's curtilage. In United States v. Gomez-Guerra, the Fifth Circuit held that Florida's burglary statute is broader than generic "burglary of a dwelling" for purposes of guideline §2L1.2's 16-level "crime of violence" definition because the generic offense doesn't encompass entries into curtilage.

But that didn't end matters here. The "adjudicative records" from the burglary conviction showed that
Castillo stipulated to “a factual basis” for his offense, and he similarly stipulated based on “documents in the court file, including the complaint affidavit(s).” The “798 Charging Affidavit” includes an admission from Castillo’s accomplice and co-defendant Escoto, which states he and Castillo “entered the residence through an unsecured kitchen window” (emphasis added). The charging affidavit also indicates that after the investigator spoke with Escoto, Castillo “also confessed to the Burglary.”

Castillo argued that the plea colloquy did not establish that he admitted entering a residence because it did not specifically identify the "798 Charging Affidavit," as opposed to some other document in the court file, as the basis for his guilty plea. Thus, according to Castillo, the state court record did not support a finding that he entered a residence rather than simply the curtilage of a residence.

The court rejected what it characterized as Castillo's request for "a new rule requiring that when a defendant stipulates that 'a factual basis' for his offense is found in 'court documents,' the specific facts assented to by the defendant, or the specific document that served as the factual basis for the plea, must be exactly identified in the record." It concluded that Shepard v. United States "requires no such rule." Instead, the court held that "when a defendant stipulates that 'a factual basis' for his plea is present in 'court documents,' courts may use any uncontradicted facts in those documents to establish an element of a prior conviction." Since Castillo's stipulation revealed that he actually entered a residence, his offense constituted generic burglary of a dwelling and he was subect to the 16-level COV enhancement under §2L1.2.

Note that there may still be room for an argument even if the record from a prior conviction contains a stipulation similar to the one in Castillo's case. For example, there may be something about the record as a whole that creates some ambiguity as to the exact factual basis for the conviction, or it may identify the relevant documents with greater specificity that the stipulation here. Castillo-Morales doesn't look like it would be controlling in such instances.

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