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United States v. Wei Lin

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

December 24, 2013

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
WEI LIN, Defendant-Appellant.

Argued and Submitted Oct. 10, 2013.

Mark B. Hanson, Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, for Defendant-Appellant.

Stephen F. Leon Guerrero (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, and Alicia A.G. Limtiaco, United States Attorney,

Page 1083

United States Attorney's Office, Hagatna, Guam, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of the Northern Mariana Islands, Ramona V. Manglona, Chief District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 1:11-cr-00008-RVM-1.

Before: ALEX KOZINSKI, Chief Judge, and RAYMOND C. FISHER and PAUL J. WATFORD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

WATFORD, Circuit Judge:

Wei Lin, a Chinese national, unlawfully obtained two driver's licenses issued by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The main issue on appeal is whether Lin's possession of those licenses may be punished under 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a).

I

Section 1546, titled " Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents," criminalizes a diverse range of conduct, most of it tied to immigration-related documents. As relevant to the charges brought against Lin, the statute required the government to prove that he (1) possessed one of the documents specified in the statute and (2) knew the document had been obtained unlawfully or fraudulently.[1]

At trial, Lin did not contest the second element. Lin unlawfully obtained two authentic CNMI driver's licenses issued in his own name. He knew the first license had been obtained unlawfully because he paid a bribe to get it. After a police officer confiscated that license during a traffic stop, Lin obtained a duplicate license. Lin knew the duplicate had been obtained unlawfully because to get it, he submitted an affidavit to the CNMI Bureau of Motor Vehicles falsely stating that he had lost the original license at the beach.

Lin did contest the first element of the offense: He argued that a CNMI driver's license is not one of the documents specified in § 1546(a). Those documents consist of the following: " any immigrant or non-immigrant visa, permit, border crossing card, alien registration receipt card, or other document prescribed by statute or regulation for entry into or as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States. " 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a) (emphasis added); see United States v. Krstic, 558 F.3d 1010, 1015-16 (9th Cir.2009).

The government contends a driver's license is covered by the italicized " other document" clause, but it plainly is not. The government has not identified any federal statute or regulation that prescribes a driver's license as one of the documents authorizing entry into the United States. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1181(a), 1182(a)(7); 8 C.F.R. §§ 211.1(a), 212.1, 212.6. Nor has the government identified any federal ...


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