June 24, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Use of Juvenile Conviction for Sentence Enhancement Under ACCA Affirmed

The Tenth Circuit published its opinion in United States v. Rich on Monday, February 11, 2013.

Defendant Paul Everett Rich, III, pled guilty to one count of felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Because he had been convicted of three predicate offenses, he qualified for enhanced punishment under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), and was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 180 months’ imprisonment. Rich appealed the sentencing enhancement claiming: 1) his juvenile adjudication was “dismissed” by Oklahoma courts and should not be counted as a prior conviction under the ACCA; and 2) the ACCA violated substantive due process by considering these older, juvenile adjudications.

The Armed Career Criminal Act provides enhanced sentences for a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) who has three prior 3“violent felony” or “serious drug offense” convictions. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The ACCA defines “conviction” as including a finding that a person has committed an act of juvenile delinquency involving a violent felony.

Rich asserts that his juvenile adjudication cannot qualify as a predicate offense under the ACCA because a state court judge entered an order “dismissing” his juvenile case, which he contended rendered “the ‘finding’” that he committed an act of juvenile delinquency a nullity. The Tenth Circuit diagreed. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the decision of an Oklahoma court to “dismiss” a juvenile case after adjudication meant nothing more than it was terminating its jurisdiction. As Rich presented no convincing evidence that “dismissal” meant something different, the Tenth Circuit rejected his argument.

Alternatively, Rich arguee that the ACCA violated his Fifth Amendment rights. He contended the sentencing enhancement deprived him of substantive due process because it placed no limits on the age of predicate convictions. Because due process requires only that a sentencing scheme be rational, United States v. Bredy, 209 F.3d 1193, 1197 (10th Cir. 2000), and because the Tenth Circuit could not say Congress’s decision to allow the use of these older convictions shocks the conscience, the Court concluded Rich’s substantive due process rights were not violated.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speak Your Mind