Tuesday, January 26, 2010

U.S. v. Juvenile Male, No. 07-50107 (1-26-10). Youth is wasted on the young, especially if they should misstate their age. Here, the juvenile was arrested for alien smuggling after a chase. He gave a birthdate that made him 18. The Border Patrol, however, had information that he had given other dates, when he was previously arrested, which made him a minor. Indeed, he had been deported as a minor recently. The government contested his juvenile status, which lead to hearings, which included testimony by the Mexican consulate. The court found the defendant was indeed a juvenile. The government then lodged a certificate to proceed under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. The Act requires the government to allege that a state will not take jurisdiction. Here, the federal prosecutor asserted that the state district attorney would not take jurisdiction. The 9th, on appeal, issued a per curiam opinion, that discusses what amounts to take state jurisdiction. In California, the state constitution vests the courts with criminal jurisdiction upon the filing of criminal charges. Thus, the decision by the district county attorney not to press charges had the affect of refusing jurisdiction. Thus, the certificate was not in error. The problem for the government, though, lay with protections of the Juvenile Act, which were all violated when the juvenile was arrested but stated he was an adult. The 9th (Berzon, Ikuta, and Singleton) came down on an interpretation of the Act that stressed the triggering of the Act upon arrest, with a reasonable knowledge provision. In this instance, the government had information that would raise the issue of minor status. The government should have taken steps to contact the Mexican consulate or the parents. The violation of the Act's protections (notification of parents and consulate among others) could not be considered harmless. The juvenile had confessed, and the court relied heavily upon the confession in the adjudication. However, the confession was given without the parents being present or notified. The case is therefore remanded for a determination whether the confession was a result of the Act's violation and if so, then it must be suppressed. The court then must determine whether there was sufficient evidence to adjudicate. On another issue, related to speedy trial, there was no violation as the continuances tolled the Act's clock and were a result of the defendant's actions.

Congratulations to Deputy Federal Defender Leila Morgan of the Federal Defenders of San Diego.


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