Saturday, October 06, 2007

Why Oh, Why Oh, Y.O?

United States v. Jackson, Docket No. 06-5928-cr (2d Cir. October 5, 2007) (Miner, Cabranes, CJJ, Crotty, DJ) (per curiam)

This case continues the court’s seemingly relentless, and highly questionable, line of cases upholding the use of New York State youthful offender adjudications (“Y.O.”’s) as sentencing enhancers.

In United States v. Sampson, 385 F.3d 183 (2d Cir. 2004), the court held that a Y.O. constituted a prior drug felony for purposes of the sentencing enhancements contained in 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b) and 851.

Here, Jackson, whose Y.O doubled a five-year mandatory minimum, tried to capitalize on a potential hole in Sampson. He argued that the Sampson court’s observation that the defendant served his Y.O. sentence in an adult institution created a requirement that district courts find this to be true before enhancing a drug sentence based on a Y.O.

The court disagreed. A finding of fact on this question is not required. It is enough that, despite the Y.O., Jackson was tried and convicted in adult court of an adult drug offense that was punishable by more than one year in prison.

The court went on to note that Jackson himself never provided any evidence that he was housed in a juvenile facility, despite being in the best position to do so. It appears that this is dicta, since the rule has always been that the government has the burden of proving a sentencing enhancement.

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