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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Monday, July 9, 2012

It's So Juvenile: Court Of Appeals Of Minnesota Finds An Extended-Jurisdiction Juvenile Adjudication Not Covered By Rule 609(d)

Minnesota Rule of Evidence 609(d) provides that

Evidence of juvenile adjudications is not admissible under this rule unless permitted by statute or required by the state or federal constitution.

In State v. Jones, 2012 WL 2368839 (Minn.App. 2012), the defendant appealed from his conviction for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, arguing, inter alia, that the admission of evidence of his extended-jurisdiction juvenile adjudication was plain error. So, why did the Court of Appeals of Minnesota deny his appeal in spite of Rule 609(d)?

In Jones,

In 2006, when...Prince Antonio Jones was 17, he was convicted as an extended-jurisdiction juvenile (EJJ) for felony possession of a short-barreled shotgun....He was therefore a person prohibited from possessing a firearm....In 2010, when [Jones[ was 20, and while he was on probation for the EJJ conviction, two police officers saw him remove a gun from his waistband and throw it up to the roof of a garage.

Jones was thus charged with being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. After he was convicted, Jones appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court improperly allowed the prosecution to impeach him with evidence of his EJJ adjudication.

The Court of Appeals of Minnesota rejected this argument, finding that "[t]his argument assumes that an EJJ conviction is a 'juvenile adjudication.'" And, according to the court, 

The only support appellant offer[ed] for this assumption is negative: he relies on Minn.Stat. § 260B.245, subd. 1(a) (2010) (providing that "An extended jurisdiction juvenile conviction shall be treated in the same manner as an adult felony criminal conviction for purposes of the Sentencing Guidelines") and argues that, because the statute provides no other similarity between EJJ convictions and adult convictions, EJJ convictions are equivalent to juvenile adjudications.

The court then found this argument to be inapposite because

the statute, taken in its entirety, refutes rather than supports appellant's argument because it makes juvenile adjudication and EJJ conviction not equivalent but mutually exclusive. See, e.g., Minn.Stat. § 260B.245, subd. 1(a) ("No adjudication upon the status of any child in the jurisdiction of the juvenile court shall operate to impose any of the civil disabilities imposed by conviction...nor shall this adjudication be deemed a conviction of crime"); see also Minn.Stat. § 260B.255, subd. 1 (2010) (providing that a violation of a state law by a child under 18 "is not a crime unless the juvenile court:...(3) convicts the child as an extended jurisdiction juvenile...."). Appellant's assumption that an EJJ conviction is the equivalent of a juvenile adjudication is without support, and the admission of testimony about an EJJ conviction is not excluded under Minn. R. Evid. 609(d).

My response is that the situation seems a good deal more complicated that the Court of Appeals of Minnesota made it seem. First of all, let's look at the full language of Minn.Stat. § 260B.255, subd. 1(3), which the Court of Appeals of Minnesota cited for the proposition that a violation of a state law by a child under 18 "is not a crime unless the juvenile court:...(3) convicts the child as an extended jurisdiction juvenile...." In its entirety, this subsection actually states:

A violation of a state or local law or ordinance by a child before becoming 18 years of age is not a crime unless the juvenile court:

(3) convicts the child as an extended jurisdiction and subsequently executes the adult sentence under section  260B.130, subdivision 5." (emphasis added).

This seems like a pretty key distinction to me. In an EJJ case, a trial is held in juvenile court, and, if the defendant is found guilty, the juvenile court shall

(1) impose one or more juvenile dispositions under section 260B.198; and

(2) impose an adult criminal sentence, the execution of which shall be stayed on the condition that the offender not violate the provisions of the disposition order and not commit a new offense.

So, with an EJJ adjudication, an offender is given (1) an actual juvenile disposition, and (2) an adult sentence that is stayed and only imposed if the offender violates the provisions of the disposition order or is convicted of a new offense. Therefore, the EJJ is properly described as a blended sentencing law, which shares features of a juvenile adjudication and an adult conviction.

The Court of Appeals of Minnesota found that a "juvenile adjudication and EJJ conviction [are] not equivalent but mutually exclusive" because an EJJ adjudication differs in at least two regards from a classic juvenile adjudication: (1) it is treated like an adult conviction for sentencing purposes, and (2) it can become a crime if the offender violates the provisions of the disposition order or is convicted of a new offense. But I would note that an EJJ adjudication differs in at least two regards from a classic adult conviction: (1) it takes place in juvenile, rather than adult, court; and (2) if the offender is found guilty, the court imposes a juvenile disposition. This of course makes sense because, as noted, an EJJ is a blended sentencing law.

So, is an EJJ adjudication a juvenile adjudication or a criminal conviction? Let's look at two different situations. In the first situation, we have an EJJ adjudication, and the offender has not yet violated the provisions of the disposition order or been convicted of a new offense. This takes us back to Minn.Stat. § 260B.255, subd. 1(3), which, again, states that a violation that leads to an EJJ adjudication is not a crime unless the juvenile court:

(3) convicts the child as an extended jurisdiction and subsequently executes the adult sentence under section  260B.130, subdivision 5.

Therefore, under these circumstances, an EJJ adjudication is not a conviction of a crime. So, is this type of EJJ adjudication a juvenile adjudication that cannot be used to impeach the offende under Minnesota Rule of Evidence 609(d)? It doesn't matter because the offender was not convicted of a crime, so the adjudication is not admissible to impeach the offender under Minnesota Rule of Evidence 609(a) ("For the purpose of attacking the credibility of a witness, evidence that the witness has been convicted of a crime shall be admitted [in certain circumstances]"). 

In the second situation, we have an EJJ adjudication, and the offender has violated the provisions of the disposition order or has been convicted of a new offense. In this case, Minn.Stat. § 260B.255, subd. 1(3) tells us that the EJJ adjudication is a criminal conviction. But Minn.Stat. § 260B.245, subd. 1(a) tells us that

No adjudication upon the status of any child in the jurisdiction of the juvenile court shall operate to impose any of the civil disabilities imposed by conviction, nor shall any child be deemed a criminal by reason of this adjudication, nor shall this adjudication be deemed a conviction of crime, except as otherwise provided in this section or section 260B.255. An extended jurisdiction juvenile conviction shall be treated in the same manner as an adult felony criminal conviction for purposes of the Sentencing Guidelines. The disposition of the child or any evidence given by the child in the juvenile court shall not be admissible as evidence against the child in any case or proceeding in any other court, except that an adjudication may later be used to determine a proper sentence, nor shall the disposition or evidence disqualify the child in any future civil service examination, appointment, or application. (emphasis added).

So, is the EJJ adjudication in this case a juvenile adjudication? Again, it doesn't matter because Minn.Stat. § 260B.245, subd. 1(a) gives us an independent ground for deeming it inadmissible.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2012/07/ejj-609d-state-of-minnesota-respondent-v-prince-antonio-jones-appellant-nw2d-2012-wl-2368839minnapp2012.html

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