United States v. Jose Luis Eliseo Arias Quijada (10th Cir. 2019)

The Federal Docket

August 25, 2019

Illegal Reentry/Defense of Duress – Defendant could not show that his illegal reentry was based on duress he was facing from gangs in El Salvador because, upon arriving to the U.S., the defendant was no longer under threat of violence yet he did not surrender to officials or seek asylum.

Convicted of illegal reentry into the U.S., the defendant appealed the district court’s denial of his Motion to Assert a Defense of Duress, arguing that there was evidence of duress based on entering the U.S. while fleeing gang violence in El Salvador. The district court denied the motion because, once he had entered the country and the threat of violence was no longer imminent, he did not surrender to immigration officials or formally seek asylum.

The Court affirmed, holding that the defendant asserting duress must show either: 1) “a bonafide effort to surrender to law enforcement officials once the alleged duress ends” or 2) “the duress defense elements were satisfied throughout the entirety of his criminal conduct.”

The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that he was under duress during the three years he illegally lived in the U.S. due to the belief that he would be deported back to El Salvador, holding that the defendant’s subjective belief was not supported by the record and there was no evidence that his asylum claim would have been denied.

Appeal from the Western District of Oklahoma

Opinion by Murphy, joined by Hartz and Carson

Click here to read the opinion.


Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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