Sunday, February 20th, 2011

The Youth Won’t Set You Free

United States v. Conca, No. 09-4475-cr (2d Cir. February 15, 2011) (Miner, Straub, Livingston, CJJ)

The Second Circuit has long held that a New York State youthful offender adjudication (a “y.o.”), counts as an adult conviction in the Sentencing Guidelines. In this long opinion, which covers absolutely no new ground, the court says so again.

In New York, first offenders between sixteen and nineteen years old are eligible for treatment as a youthful offender. If granted, the conviction is set aside and replaced with a y.o. adjudication, which carries more lenient penalties, is not treated as a conviction and does not trigger certain civil disabilities. However, unlike a juvenile offender, if sentenced to imprisonment, a youthful offender serves the sentence in an adult facility.

Conca received a long federal sentence for failing to register as a sex offender. Both in the district court and in the court of appeals he complained about three criminal history points assessed for a 1996 y.o., for which he was sentenced to 106 days’ time served, five years’ probation and, ultimately, one to three years’ imprisonment on a probation violation.

The circuit had little trouble concluding that this belonged in Conca’s criminal history score. Indeed, the outcome was dictated both by the Guidelines and by circuit precedent, under which Conca was “convicted as an adult,” even though he was under eighteen, and “received” a sentence of more than one year and one month.

For length of the y.o. sentence, the district court correctly followed the instructions in U.S.S.G. § 4A1.2(k), under which the original sentence and the violation sentence are aggregated to calculate the length of the sentence “received.” Here, that was clearly in excess of thirteen months. The district court also correctly concluded that Conca was “convicted as an adult.” The original y.o. sentence to probation was revoked and Conca served the violation sentence in an adult facility. Accordingly, given the nature of the proceeding, the type of sentence and the place of incarceration, Conca was indeed convicted as an adult.

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