Saturday, June 19th, 2010

PC World

United States v. Vallejo, No. 09-1673-cr (2d Cir. June 11, 2010) (Winter, Cabranes, Raggi, CJJ) (per curiam)

This latest per curiam opinion looks at the petty offense exception to the Sentencing Guidelines’ criminal history rules, set out in U.S.S.G. § 4A1.2(c)(1). That provision excludes from the criminal history score prior sentences for certain petty offenses and “offenses similar to them.” On appeal, Vallejo argued that his two prior convictions for unauthorized use of a vehicle in New York State were for an offense “similar to” the listed offense of careless or reckless driving.

But the circuit held that Vallejo had waived the claim. For one of them, a 2001 conviction, after a sentencing hearing he “expressly acknowledged” that the conduct underlying the conviction – stripping parts from a stolen car – warranted the assessment of a criminal history point. For the other, the underlying conduct was identical, so he waived his objection to that one too.

The court then went on – apparently in dicta – to agree with the district court that the criminal history points were warranted. Unauthorized use is higher level misdemeanor than reckless driving and requires a “higher degree of moral culpability” – proof that the defendant knew that he lacked the vehicle owner’s consent. It is also a trespassory offense, and thus poses a high risk that the owner or someone else might end up in a confrontation with the defendant.

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