United States v. Mendez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 08-26-2014
  • Case #: 13-30170
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Watford for the Court; Circuit Judge McKeown and Senior District Judge Rothstein
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Washington law, juvenile adjudications are considered predicate offenses when calculating punishment for offenses after the juvenile has become an adult.

When Fidel Mendez was a juvenile, he was found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm under RCW § 9.41.040(2)(a) in Washington. Five years later, Mendez was an adult and charged under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) for being in unlawful possession of a firearm because he had a been convicted of “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” Mendez filed a motion to dismiss his federal charge on the grounds that under RCW § 13.04.240 juveniles are not subject to convictions, but instead violations or offenses. The Ninth Circuit held that Congress chose when passing 18 U.S.C. § 922 to let the law of the jurisdiction in which the crime is committed determine whether the previous offenses are considered convictions. The Washington Supreme Court held in State v Johnson that juveniles commit “violations” and “offenses” and not crimes, only when the subsequent crime occurs while the defendant is still a juvenile. The panel held that under Washington law, once the defendant reaches majority and commits another crime, juvenile adjudications are to be used as previous convictions. AFFIRMED.

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