US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
United States v. Silva
Opinion Date: February 12, 2024
Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Immigration Law
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit addressed an appeal by Evaristo Contreras Silva, a Mexican citizen who was convicted of possession of a firearm by an illegal alien under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5). Silva entered the United States unlawfully and was detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2018. He was informed of his illegal status and given an I-94 form. Silva argued that he believed he was lawfully in the U.S. based on the I-94 form and his interactions with immigration officials. In February 2022, Silva was found in possession of a firearm after a domestic violence call from his wife. He was subsequently charged and convicted for firearm possession as an illegal alien.
On appeal, Silva argued that the Government did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew he was unlawfully in the U.S. when he possessed the firearm. He based his belief on the I-94 form, advice from his immigration attorneys, adherence to his bond conditions, and various applications to change his status after his arrest.
However, the court affirmed the conviction, holding that the Government provided sufficient evidence that Silva knew he was in the U.S. unlawfully when he possessed a firearm according to the standard set in Rehaif v. United States. The court considered Silva's unlawful entry, his detention by DHS, his admission of unlawful entry in an application for status adjustment, and the pending status of his immigration applications at the time he possessed the firearm. The court concluded that although there was evidence supporting Silva's belief of lawful presence, it did not justify a judgment of acquittal as the evidence was not definitive and the issue was appropriately presented to the jury.
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