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Media Alerts - Boggala v. Sessions -- Fourth Circuit
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October 30, 2017
  Boggala v. Sessions -- Fourth Circuit
Grammar Rules the Day: Permanent Resident's Deportation Hinged on "The"

Areas of Law: Criminal, Immigration

Issue Presented: Whether a permanent resident's signed deferred prosecution agreement qualified as a "conviction" for deportation purposes.

Brief Summary: In a published opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the immigration judge correctly determined an undocumented sex offender was removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") after he agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement. The Fourth Circuit found that the agreement constituted a conviction subject to the INA's removal process because the accused attended a confirmation hearing where he made factual admissions sufficient to warrant a finding of guilt.

Extended Summary: In 2009, Vijaya Boggala, a doctor originally from India, was granted permanent residency after he married a United States citizen. Three years later, Boggala initiated an online chatroom conversation with an undercover police officer, who posed as a fourteen-year old female. After Boggala suggested the two engage in sexual intercourse, they made plans to meet at a Greensboro parking lot. Shortly thereafter, Boggala was apprehended by police.

Boggala was charged with soliciting a minor to commit an unlawful sex act. Unlikely to succeed at trial, Boggala entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with state prosecutors. This agreement provided that the State would refrain from prosecuting the crime so long as Boggala participated in supervised probation and promised not to commit any future criminal acts. At the North Carolina Superior Court's confirmation hearing, the judge asked Boggala if he understood he was "admitting responsibility and stipulating to the facts to be used against" him. Boggala responded, "yes" and the agreement was confirmed. In February 2013, the Department of Homeland Security brought removal proceedings, contending that Boggala was "an alien convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude." The immigration judge found that Boggala was removable and that no exceptions applied. Boggala appealed and the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") affirmed. Boggala then appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

The Fourth Circuit held that the immigration judge properly determined Boggala's deferred prosecution agreement qualified as a conviction because Boggala "admitted sufficient facts to warrant a finding of guilt" pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(48)(A)(i).

The court first considered whether Boggala admitted any facts before and during the deferred prosecution process. Prior to signing the agreement, Boggala waived indictment by signing a packet of information. The packet contained details of the allegations in addition to the relevant facts at issue. Boggala then signed the deferred prosecution agreement which contained little to no information. Most importantly, at the deferred prosecution hearing, Boggala responded "yes" when the judge asked if Boggala understood he was "admitting responsibility and stipulating to the facts to be used against [him]." The court noted that while a deferred prosecution agreement is not "by itself a sufficient 'admission of facts,'" the judge's phrasing of the question made it sufficient because the judge referenced "the facts." The Fourth Circuit held the trial judge's use of the article "the" referenced "a stipulation to the facts contained in the" packet of information that Boggala initially signed when he waived indictment. According to the court, "the facts" could only relate to the packet since the packet was the only existing set of facts to even consider. Thus, the court determined Boggala admitted sufficient facts during the deferred prosecution hearing.

Next, the court held that the facts Boggala admitted were sufficient to warrant a finding of guilt, because the packet of information Boggala signed contained factual details demonstrating that each element of the crime was violated. As such, the court affirmed the immigration judge's decision, finding that Boggala was removable because his deferred prosecution qualified as a conviction under the INA.

Judge Diaz dissented, finding that Boggala's "yes" response at the deferred prosecution hearing did not constitute a stipulation of facts because the judge essentially read the agreement verbatim and if the agreement was not sufficient by itself, then neither was the hearing.

To read the full opinion, click here.

Panel: Judges Wilkinson, Floyd, and Diaz

Argument Date: 03/21/2017

Date of Issued Opinion: 08/09/2017

Docket Number: No. 16-1558

Decided: Decided by published opinion.

Case Alert Author: Jeremy Himmelstein, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: ARGUED: Helen Parsonage, ELLIOT MORGAN PARSONAGE PLLC, Winston Salem, North Carolina, for Petitioner. Tim Ramnitz, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. ON BRIEF: Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Shelley R. Goad, Assistant Director, Jennifer A. Singer, Office of Immigration Litigation, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. Sejal Zota, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION PROJECT OF THE NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD, Boston, Massachusetts, for Amici Curiae.

Author of Opinion: Judge Floyd

Case Alert Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 10/30/2017 09:40 AM     4th Circuit  

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