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United States v. Mendez

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 26, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
FIDEL ANTONIO MENDEZ, Defendant-Appellant

Argued and Submitted, Seattle, Washington June 4, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. D.C. No. 2:12-cr-06024-FVS-1. Fred L. Van Sickle, Senior District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[**]

Criminal Law

Affirming the district court's denial of a motion to dismiss a felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm charge under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), the panel held that under Washington law, the defendant's juvenile adjudication of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of Revised Code of Washington § 9.41.040(2)(a) -- an offense that, if committed by an adult, is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison -- constitutes a " conviction" of " a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year" and may therefore serve as a predicate for the § 922(g)(1) prosecution.

Observing that Washington law treats juvenile adjudications as convictions once a defendant enters the adult criminal justice system, the panel rejected the defendant's contention that Washington law establishes a general rule barring the treatment of juvenile adjudications as " convictions" of " crimes."

Diane E. Hehir (argued), Assistant Federal Public Defender, Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, Yakima, Washington, for Defendant-Appellant.

Alexander C. Ekstrom (argued), Assistant United States Attorney; Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Yakima, Washington, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: M. Margaret McKeown and Paul J. Watford, Circuit Judges, and Barbara Jacobs Rothstein, Senior District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 951

WATFORD, Circuit Judge:

In 2007, a juvenile court adjudicated Fidel Mendez guilty of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, in violation of Revised Code of Washington (RCW) § 9.41.040(2)(a).[1] That offense, if committed by an adult, is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. RCW § § 9.41.040(2)(b), 9A.20.021(1)(c). In 2012, after Mendez had become an adult, a park ranger found him in possession of a shotgun. The federal government charged him with violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), which makes it unlawful for a person to possess a firearm if he's previously been " convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year." [2] The indictment alleged--based on the 2007 juvenile adjudication--

Page 952

that Mendez had been convicted of a ...


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