Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 7.23 (A)

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(A)  In General.  Juvenile delinquency dispositions that occur in juvenile court are not considered to be criminal convictions, and thus do not trigger any conviction-based ground of deportation.[52]  Congress knows how to attach conviction consequences to adjudications of juvenile delinquency when it wishes to do so. For example, Congress recently provided, with respect to a specific new statute, that “The term `convicted’ or a variant thereof, used with respect to a sex offense, includes adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile for that offense, but only under limited conditions.[53]  Some youthful offender dispositions, however, are considered convictions.[54]  See § 12.21, infra.


[52] Matter of Devison, 22 I. & N. Dec. 1362 (BIA 2000); Matter of De La Nues, 18 I. & N. Dec. 140 (BIA 1981); Matter of Ramirez-Rivero, 18 I. & N. Dec. 135 (BIA 1981) (Cuban conviction); Matter of F, 4 I. & N. Dec. 726 (BIA 1952); Matter of A, 3 I. & N. Dec. 368 (BIA 1948); Matter of O’N, 2 I. & N. Dec. 319 (AG 1945). The BIA’s holdings in the earlier of these cases were adopted by the State Department in 52 Fed. Reg. 17,942 (May 13, 1987) (amending former 22 C.F.R § § 41.91(a)(9) and (10) and 42.91(a)(9) and (10)) (new rule inapplicable to a juvenile tried as an adult for a violent crime).

[53] The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, H.R. 4472, Pub. L. 109-248, § 111(8) (July 27, 2006).

[54] Uritsky v. Gonzales, 399 F.3d 728 (6th Cir. Mar. 7, 2005) (sentence of probation and a designation of “youthful trainee” under Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“YTA”), Mich. Comp. Laws § § 762.11-16, constitutes a conviction for immigration purposes).



Sixth Circuit

Hanna v. Holder, 740 F.3d 379 (6th Cir. Jan. 17, 2014) (adjudication under Michigan's Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (YTA), Mich. Comp. Laws 762.11"16, is a conviction under the INA, since it is more similar to a deferred adjudication for youthful offenders than a true finding of juvenile delinquency); following Uritsky v. Gonzales, 399 F.3d 728, 735 (6th Cir. 2005) (YTA adjudications are convictions under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(48)(A), because they are not analogous to determinations of juvenile delinquency under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA), 18 U.S.C. 5031"42).

Seventh Circuit

Rangel-Zuazo v. Holder, 2012 WL 432283 (7th Cir. Feb. 13, 2012) (unpublished) (state decision to try a youthful offender as a juvenile or as an adult determines whether juvenile has suffered a "conviction" for purposes of removal under the INA; federal immigration law distinctions between juvenile and adult offenders, and between minors tried as juveniles and those tried as adults, are rational and do not violate the Equal Protection Clause).

Eleventh Circuit

Singh v. U.S. Atty. Gen., ___ F.3d ___, ___, 2009 WL 604370 (11th Cir. Mar. 10, 2009) (per curiam) (a conviction of a noncitizen in adult court constitutes a conviction for immigration purposes, under INA 101(a)(48)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(48)(A), no matter how old the person was at the time of the commission of the offense); accord, Vieira Garcia v. INS, 239 F.3d 409, 413-414 (1st Cir. 2001) (petitioner who was 17 years old at the time of the offense and who was convicted as an adult in Rhode Island, had suffered a conviction for immigration purposes because the INA's definition of conviction was clear and unambiguous, the immigration authorities were bound by the state court's determination to adjudicate the petitioner as an adult: "if Congress had wanted the INS to follow the FJDA at all times, it would have so stated."); Vargas-Hernandez v. Gonzales, 497 F.3d 919, 922-23 (9th Cir. 2007) (16 year-old's state court conviction as an adult constituted a conviction under INA 101(a)(48)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(48)(A)); Savchuck v. Mukasey, 518 F.3d 119, 122 (2d Cir. 2008) (definition of conviction under INA 101(a)(48)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(48)(A), includes state court convictions and "does not sanction disregarding them because of the theoretical possibility that criminal conduct might be treated differently by federal authorities.").
Singh v. U.S. Att'y Gen., 553 F.3d 1369 (11th Cir. Dec. 31, 2008) (conviction rendered in adult court constitutes a conviction for immigration purposes, no matter how old the noncitizen was at the time of the offense).


United States v. Davis, 234 F.Supp.2d 601 (E.D.Va.2002), affirmed 359 F.3d 340 (4th Cir. 2002) (adjudications of juvenile delinquency, under Virginia law, did not constitute prior "convictions" sufficient to constitute predicate conviction for federal offense of being felon in possession of firearm).