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United States v. Ramirez-Flores: Convicted Burglar Appeals 40 Month Sentence for Illegal Reentry After Deportation

Florida criminal cases are complex enough when they involve native born American citizens. They can become exponentially more complicated, legally speaking, when they involve foreign nationals. To wit, consider the curious (and sad) case of Lazaro Ramirez-Flores, a man convicted in 2007 for burglary and sentenced to 46 months in jail sentence. The District Court enhanced his sentence because he had illegally reentered the country after being deported.

Let’s take a look at key facts from this case.

Ramirez-Flores is a Mexican citizen who entered the U.S. in 1998 illegally. In 2007, a court convicted him of burgling a dwelling, violating South Carolina’s Code 16-11-312 (A). This convicted meant that Ramirez-Flores had committed a “crime of violence” under the law. Automatically, per the United States Sentencing Guidelines -- 2L1.2 (b)(i)(a)(ii) to be specific -- this conviction tripped a mandated 16 level enhancement.

Per the probation report, Ramirez-Flores forcibly entered a victim’s residence and removed property from residence.” The defendant didn’t object to this characterization of his actions. But he did take issue with the notion that he had committed a “crime of violence,” since the offense was technically "burglary (nonviolent)."

After being deported, Ramirez-Flores reentered the country illegally and got caught. He then plead guilty to his crime (violating 8 U.S.C. 1325 (a)(1), 1326 (a) and 1329) on June 27, 2012.

Even though he illegally returned to the U.S., the defendant sought to avoid the mandated 16 level enhancement. The District Court denied this objection. Ramirez‘s lawyers then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which affirmed that his burglary crime had indeed been a “crime of violence.” As such, the court ruled that the 16 level enhancement should apply.

The technicalities notwithstanding, Ramirez-Flores v. United States demonstrates two important, fundamental principles about criminal defense.

1. What you don't understand CAN hurt you.

It’s highly unlikely that Ramirez-Flores understood the nuances of the United States Sentencing Guidelines prior to committing the 2007 burglary. Many people who break the law know that they're “doing something wrong,” but they're often completely oblivious about how the law might punish their misdeeds.

2. The difference between a successful defense and an unsuccessful defense often hinges on very subtle language.

Did Ramirez-Flores commit a “crime of violence” or not? The Supreme Court ruled "yes," according to a highly specific legal protocol.

Sinc your freedom can depend on how the court might interpret subtle legal language, you want to retain a Florida criminal defense lawyer who understands how to fight aggressively on your behalf. Call the team at Seltzer Mayberg, LLC, for a confidential and free consultation today at 1-888-THE DEFENSE (888-843-3333). We're available 24/7/365 to discuss your legal needs.

Categories: Criminal Defense
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