The Board of Immigration Appeals applied the Supreme Court’s decisions in Descamps and Moncrieffe to find that the respondent’s felony conviction under section 76-10-508.1 of the Utah Code for discharge of a firearm was not an aggravated felony crime of violence, but was a deportable firearms offense.
Section 76-10-508.1(1) has three subsections and it was not clear which the respondent was convicted of. The first, subsection (a), penalizes one who “discharges a firearm in the direction of any person or persons, knowing or having reason to believe that any person may be endangered by the discharge of the firearm.” This does not require any particular mental state by the person who discharges the firearm, which means under the Utah Code that it may be done with intent, knowledge, or recklessness.
The Supreme Court held in Leocal that the mental state of recklessness does not satisfy the federal definition of a crime of violence, so the Board held that a violation of section 76-10-508.1(1)(a) is not necessarily an aggravated felony crime of violence. Further, the Board held it could not find the respondent was convicted of an aggravated felony under the modified categorical approach. It determined it could not use the modified categorical approach because the mental states for subsection (a) (intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly) are not divisible because they are not elements of the offense that a jury must unanimously agree upon. In other words, a jury returning a guilty verdict could do so where some members of the jury believe the defendant acted intentionally, while others believe he acted recklessly. Since the offense does not necessarily constitute a crime of violence and it is not divisible, no conviction for section 76-10-508.1(1)(a) would be an aggravated felony crime of violence.
The Board nonetheless found that Chairez-Castrejon was convicted of a firearms offense because it rejected his argument on the antique firearm exception. The federal definition of a firearm excludes certain antique firearms, while the respondent argued that Utah law did not. The Board noted that there was no specific exception for antique firearms under Utah law, but also found that the respondent had not shown Utah actually prosecutes offenses involving antique firearms. In Moncrieffe, the Supreme Court held that an alien who invokes this “antique firearm” argument in order to defeat an aggravated felony charge “would have to demonstrate
that the State actually prosecutes the relevant offense in cases involving antique firearms.” The respondent apparently could not show that here (California, on the other hand, does prosecute cases involving antique firearms). The Board therefore found Chairez-Castrejon deportable, although it remanded for consideration of his cancellation of removal claim because it found his conviction was not an aggravated felony.