In Rodriguez-Hernandez v. Garland, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Washington conviction for Harassment is a crime of violence. This is because the statute requires the “threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.” As such, being convicted of Harassment risks deportatation for non-citizens.
In 2015, Rodriguez-Hernandez was an immigrant living in the United States. He served with a notice to appear alleging removability on the basis that he was not admitted or paroled into the United States (U.S.). Apparently, he faced persecution in Mexico due to threats made against his family. Rodriguez-Hernandez applied for cancellation of removal and sought asylum in the U.S.
Among other things, the 9th Circuit addressed whether Rodriguez-Hernandez’s Harassment conviction was for a crime of violence under federal law.
COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS
The 9th Circuit began by saying that a noncitizen convicted of an aggravated felony is a deportable offense. It also discussed Washington’s Harassment statute in depth as follows:
RCW § 9A.46.020(1) provides that: (1) A person is guilty of harassment if: (a) Without lawful authority, the person knowingly threatens: (i) To cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or to any other person; or (ii) To cause physical damage to the property of a person other than the actor; or (iii) To subject the person threatened or any other person to physical confinement or restraint; or (iv) Maliciously to do any other act which is intended to substantially harm the person threatened or another with respect to his or her physical or mental health or safety; and (b) The person by words or conduct places the person threatened in reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out (emphasis supplied).
Next, the 9th Circuit addressed whether Harassment was a violent offense:
“A crime of violence requires physical force against the person or property of another . . . However, a crime of violence “does not require any particular degree of likelihood or probability that the force used will cause physical pain or injury; only potentiality. The standard is force capable of causing physical pain or injury. . . .” ~9th Circuit Court of Appeals
With that reasoning, the 9th Circuit held that Rodriguez-Hernandez’ threats against his family were, in fact, crimes of violence. Therefore, because Rodriguez-Hernandez was convicted of a crime of violence, he was ineligible for cancellation of removal or asylum.
The 9th Circuit’s Rodriguez-Hernandez v. Garland, certainly makes Washington’s Harassment statute far more egrigious for citizens and non-citizens alike. It could possibly have the following impacts and consequences on current charges:
- Misdemeanor harassment with a DV tag is now a deportable “crime of domestic violence,” regardless of sentence.
- Felony harassment, under any subsection, with a sentence imposed of one year or more will be an aggravated felony “crime of violence.” [Previously only the “threaten to kill” subsection had been held to be a “crime of violence.”]
- Felony harassment-DV will be a deportable “crime of domestic violence” regardless of sentence imposed.
Even worse, the decision could have terribly negative impacts on non-citizens with prior convictions:
- Misdemeanor harassment-DV convictions:
- If conviction occurred prior to July 22, 2011 and the sentence imposed (regardless of time suspended) was 365 days it will be an aggravated felony “crime of violence.” Aggravated felonies carry the most severe immigration consequences and bar eligibility for any discretionary relief from removal.
- Regardless of date of conviction, it may now be deemed a deportable crime of domestic violence.
- Felony harassment convictions:
- Any felony harassment conviction with a sentence imposed (regardless of time suspended) of one year or more may be deemed an aggravated felony crime of violence. Previously, only felony harassment “threat to kill” was considered an aggravated felony crime of violence.
- Any felony harassment-DV conviction may now be deemed a deportable crime of domestic violence, regardless of sentence.
How this decision impacts individual non-citizen defendants will depend on their current immigration status, their immigration and criminal history, and other individual circumstances. For case-specific information please consult with other immigration counsel knowledgeable in the interplay between criminal and immigration law.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.