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Media Alerts - Mohamed v. Holder -- Fourth Circuit
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November 4, 2014
  Mohamed v. Holder -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: Failure to Register as a Sex Offender Is Not a Crime of Moral Turpitude

Area of Law: Immigration, Criminal Law

Issue Presented: Whether failure to register as a sex offender is a crime "involving moral turpitude" as the term is used in 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(a)(ii).

Brief Summary: Khalid Mohamed has been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. since 2003. In 2010, Mohamed pled guilty to sexual battery in Virginia. The following year Mohamed was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender. Thereafter, the government initiated removal proceedings based on 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(a)(ii) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which authorizes the deportation of any alien "convicted of two or more crimes of moral turpitude."

Mohamed contested his removal claiming his failure to register as a sex offender was not a crime of moral turpitude. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rejected Mohamed's appeal, relying on precedent set in Matter of Tobar-Lobo. In that case, the BIA held that failure to register did indeed involve moral turpitude. Mohamed then petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for relief.

The Fourth Circuit stated that although the term is somewhat ambiguous, violation of a statute alone will not satisfy the moral turpitude requirement. In addition, the criminal conduct must be so vile or depraved that it violates a social norm. The Fourth Circuit found that the BIA's reasoning in Tobar-Lobo was flawed. When questioning whether failure to register involved moral turpitude the BIA considered the public policy underlying the registration statute rather than considering whether the defendant's actual conduct was so vile and depraved that it violated a social norm. The Fourth Circuit stated that failure to register does not rise to the level of moral turpitude because it is merely the failure to comply with an administrative regulation - which is not depraved or vile conduct. Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit granted Mohamed's petition for review, reversed the BIA's decision, and remanded with instructions to vacate Mohamed's order of removal.

Unlike this case, the Fourth Circuit chose not to question the BIA's interpretation of another ambiguous immigration statute in Regis v. Holder, decided later the same week.

To read the full opinion please click here.

Panel: Judges Traxler, Niemeyer, and Davis.

Argument Date: 9/19/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/17/2014

Docket Number: No. 13-2027

Decided: Petition for review granted; reversed and remanded with instructions.

Case Alert Author: Roy Lyford-Pike

Counsel: ARGUED: Steven Harris Goldblatt, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER, Washington, D.C., for Petitioner. Bernard Arthur Joseph, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. ON BRIEF: Rita K. Lomio, Supervising Attorney, Lola A. Kingo, Supervising Attorney, Tiffany L. Ho, Student Counsel, David A. Kronig, Student Counsel, Philip Young, Student Counsel, Appellate Litigation Program, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER, Washington, D.C., for Petitioner. Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Jamie M. Dowd, 2Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

Author: Judge Niemeyer

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée M. Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 11/04/2014 04:43 PM     4th Circuit  

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