Thursday, August 9, 2007

They made a federal case out of it!

Remember that stuff they told you about the delinquency charge you (or your child) had? They said it was o.k. to admit to it even if you didn't agree 100% with the allegations because it would go away and wouldn't be a problem when you were an adult, right? They said that delinquency charges don't affect your record once you grow up, right?

Well, apparently, that is unless you get in trouble again.

What went on in juvenile court can be used against you as an adult in setting your bail and in determining your sentence for adult crimes.

Now, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has made a federal case out of it. In U.S. v. Matthews, (Nos. 05-1655, 05-1925, decided August 7, 2007) the court ruled that a Massachusetts delinquency finding could be used as a predicate violent felony to invoke the federal Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA") and impose a statutory minimum fifteen-year term of imprisonment. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1).

And they're not the only ones! The court cites to several other cases in which delinquency findings from various states have been held as valid bases for the imposition of those enhanced penalties.

The case isn't even about the numerous other types of collateral consequences of delinquency and other findings, including immigration, citizenship, driver's license, housing and financial aid issues. Make sure you talk about all of those with defense counsel when considering whether to take a plea deal or how vigorously to contest charges at trial.


MLR said...

A new Massachusetts Appeals Court case allows even a nolle prossed case to be used in sentencing determinations.

In Com. v. Keon K., a juvenile, the court wrote: "there was nothing improper in the judge's inquiry into, or reliance on, the nolle prossed sexual assault as part of his sentencing decision. Nothing in the Federal or State Constitutions, the General Laws, or the rules of criminal procedure prohibits a judge from considering a defendant's entire record, including dismissals, for sentencing purposes. See Commonwealth v. Lender, 66 Mass.App.Ct. 303, 307-308 (2006); G.L. c. 276, § 85, as amended by St.1956, c. 731, § 15. See also Commonwealth v. Goodwin, 414 Mass. 88, 91- 93 (1993) (a sentence should reflect the judge's careful assessment of several goals, including "punishment, deterrence, protection of the public, and rehabilitation," and the judge may consider many factors that would not be relevant at trial including information about the defendant's "character, behavior, and background"). [FN3] In fact, the prohibition found in the criminal rules speaks only to matters of which the defendant was found not guilty. See Mass.R.Crim.P. 28(d)(1), 378 Mass. 898 (1979). A nolle prosequi entered before jeopardy attaches does not operate as an acquittal. See Mass.R.Crim.P. 16(b), 378 Mass. 885 (1979). Also, the fact that the prior sexual assault was alleged to have taken place in a church was a relevant consideration for the judge given that it bespoke a pattern of conduct or modus operandi by the juvenile."

Decision by Meade, J., 10/25/07.

MLR said...

And the plight of Anthony Circosta (as discussed in the Huckabee v. Romney debates on pardons) shows that you don't even have to get into trouble again for that delinquency finding to haunt your adult life.

Here's a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe that highlights the injustice of treating juvenile court actions as lifelong marks on one's record.

"Juvenile justice and the pardon

"January 3, 2008

"LEAVING ASIDE for a moment the self-serving presidential campaign rhetoric that has brought to the front page Mitt Romney's refusal to pardon a decorated war veteran, we should ask how it is possible for a juvenile at the age of 13 to have a public criminal record that would require pardoning as if the individual were an adult at the time ("Mass. pardon case at center of GOP storm," Jan. 2).

"Juvenile court is supposed to be a confidential legal setting. The whole purpose of juvenile justice is to recognize adolescence and the need to treat juveniles as if they are less responsible for their actions than adults. A juvenile's record of delinquency is not a permanent record of criminality but a temporary one that is to be wiped clean when the juvenile turns into an adult.

"The juvenile court's mission remains important in providing youths with the second chance that they need to become productive, law-abiding adults.

"The fact that Anthony Circosta as an adult had to petition to be pardoned for an offense that he committed at 13 is a sad indictment not only of a former governor who consistently refused to grant any petition, but of a state that prides itself on its ability to provide justice."

By SIMON I. SINGER, Boston (a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University.)