SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The full 9th Circuit ruled that statutory rape does not necessarily constitute a deportable felony, offering hope for relief to a Mexican immigrant facing deportation for having consensual sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend when he was 20.
The court agreed to review the case of Juan Elias Estrada-Espinoza, who was convicted of statutory rape for having sex with his minor girlfriend. The couple met when Estrada-Espinoza was 20 years old and the girl was 15 or 16, but she allegedly told him she was 18. They began living together in one of their parents' homes, and eventually got their own apartment and had a child together.
Estrada-Espinoza has been jailed under a deportation order since 2005.
In August 2007, a three-judge panel ruled that the offense qualified as "sexual abuse of a child," an aggravated felony that triggered deportation.
The full court reversed the panel's decision on the ground that state criminal laws used to convict the defendant are much broader than the crime of "sexual abuse of a minor."
That means Estrada-Espinoza's conviction does not categorically constitute "sexual abuse of a minor," the court concluded. The judges granted his petition for review.