Published on: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

On May 30, 2017, in an 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court held that the sexual abuse of a minor conviction committed by a lawful permanent resident was not an aggravated felony.  Justice Gorsuch took no part in the decision.  At issue was whether Juan Esquivel-Quintana’s conviction under a California statute criminalizing consensual sexual intercourse between a 21-year-old and a 17-year-old (almost 18 year old) qualified as “sexual abuse of a minor” under the Immigration and Nationality Act  (INA).  Employing the categorical approach from Moncrieffe v. Holder and Johnson v. United States, the Court explained that it must presume that Esquivel-Quintana’s no contest plea and resulting conviction “‘rested upon . . . the least of th[e] acts’ criminalized by the statute, and then ... determine whether that conduct would fall within the federal definition of the crime.”  It concluded that in order to fit within the definition of “sexual abuse of a minor” under INA, the minor had to be under the age of consent, which is 16 years old. 

For the opinion Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions, click here.  For more opinion analysis, click here.