United States v. Perez-Paz, No. 20-4182 (4th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for one count of illegal reentry after deportation for an aggravated felony in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1326(a), (b)(2), holding that section 1326 is constitutional. The court rejected defendant's contention that section 1326 violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to a jury by splitting factual findings between the jury and an administrative agency. Rather, the court explained that United States v. Mendoza-Lopez, 481 U.S. 828, 837 (1987), remains binding where section 1326 does not incorporate, as an element, the facts supporting the underlying removal order. Therefore, those facts need not be found beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury. The court also rejected defendant's contention that section 1326 violates the Fifth Amendment right to due process because it allows reliance on a discretionary decision by an executive officer, concluding that the Supreme Court has sanctioned such reliance in the context of section 1326.
However, the court remanded for resentencing on procedural reasonableness grounds. In this case, the district court's sentence was procedurally unreasonable to the extent that it failed to consider defendant's argument regarding his stale drug convictions and his argument regarding sentencing disparities.