Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 12.1 I. Introduction

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A juvenile is defined, under federal law, as:  “A person who has not attained his eighteenth birthday, or for the purpose of proceedings and disposition under this chapter for an alleged act of juvenile delinquency, a person who has not attained his twenty-first birthday.”[1]  Juvenile delinquency “is the violation of a law of the United States committed by a person prior to his eighteenth birthday which would have been a crime if committed by an adult.”[2]


                When representing a noncitizen in juvenile delinquency proceedings, criminal defense counsel’s task of protecting him or her against adverse immigration consequences is far easier than in adult criminal court, because an adjudication of juvenile delinquency is not considered a “conviction” for immigration purposes, see § 12.21, infra, and therefore does not trigger any of the adverse immigration consequences of a conviction. See Chapter 7, supra.


                Noncitizen juveniles, however, do face many of the conduct-based immigration consequences of criminal and related activity, see § § 12.20, et seq., infra, and immigration law specifically provides some adverse immigration consequences of juvenile-court findings.  E.g., § § 12.26, infra (court finding of violation of domestic-violence condition of probation), 12.37(B), infra (juvenile delinquency adjudication bars Family Unity under certain circumstances).


                The basic strategy for defense of noncitizens in juvenile court is similar to (but easier than) the strategy for adult noncitizen defendants.  See § § 12.3, et seq., infra.


                If a juvenile is transferred to adult court, however, and suffers an adult conviction there, that disposition is normally considered a conviction for immigration purposes, and triggers all the normal adverse immigration consequences of a conviction, including deportation, inadmissibility, and disqualification from relief in immigration court.  See § 12.2, infra.


                The various immigration consequences of juvenile court decisions are given in § § 12.20, et seq., infra.


                The federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act[3] applies to undocumented immigrants, and noncitizens lawfully present in the United States, as well as to United States citizens.[4]  See § § 12.10-12.19, infra.

[1] 18 U.S.C. § 5031.

[2] 18 U.S.C. § 5031.

[3] Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, Pub. L. No. 93-415, § § 101-102, 88 Stat. 1109 (1974).

[4] United States v. Doe, 862 F.2d 776, 778 (9th Cir. 1988).