Federal Court Rules Manslaughter Does Not Constitute a Crime of Violence


Manslaughter is no longer considered a crime of violence for purposes of federal sentencing.   In order to decide the amount of time that a person should be sentenced to once they are convicted, the court uses a mechanism called a sentencing guideline. Based on the crime convicted and what the guideline suggests a specific amount of time for that person to spend in jail combined with the recommendation from a probation officer, a person is given a base offense level. This level takes into account the crime at hand as well as the prior convictions for the person in question. In Mr. Mendoza-Padilla’s case, when the sentencing guidelines were put to the facts of his case as well as his prior conviction for manslaughter he was returned with a base level offense 16 levels higher than he and his federal criminal defense attorney were expecting. Originally, based on the information given to the probation officer in this case, Mendoza-Padilla was given a base offense level of 8. Once the probation officer took into account the manslaughter prior, he increased the base offense level to 16 because he believed that the previous conviction for manslaughter was what is considered a “crime of violence”. Once all the adjustments were done, Mendoza-Padilla was given a final offense level of 21.

Appealing Sentence When Prior Manslaughter Conviction Used to Increase the Sentence

Understandably, Mendoza-Padilla did not agree with this intense increase on account of the fact that he and his federal criminal defense attorney did not believe that his prior was considered a “crime of violence” when looking at it through the lens of the federal sentencing law. Mendoza-Padilla was sentenced to 57 months in prison, but he appealed his sentence. Upon inspection, the court found that there was a lower culpability that would still qualify under being charged and convicted of manslaughter and that it was not necessarily considered a “crime of violence”. Mendoza-Padilla’s conviction was vacated and remanded for resentencing.

Attorney Can Help Fight Sentence Increase From Prior Manslaughter Conviction

Without a capable and federal criminal defense attorney, Mendoza-Padilla would not have had the result he has achieved now. It takes a skilled attorney to be able to convince the court differently than they have previously decided. Finding an attorney who is well versed and well established not only in their practice but also in the court system in which you have been charged is the most important and difficult thing you will have to do. A federal criminal defense attorney is one who has tried cases in federal court and knows how the federal system works. They have often interacted with the Judge and Prosecutor and will know what they can and cannot argue or ask for. They are your best defense against the charges that you face and they will defend you to the best of their abilities. Carlos Mendoza-Padilla had an attorney who fought for him and convinced the court to take one last look—his attorney may have changed his life for the better for years to come.

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