Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, October 21, 2013

Elliot: Alabama Juvenile Adjudication counts as prior conviction

In U.S. v. Elliot, No. 12-10553 (Oct. 18, 2013), the Court rejected a challenge to an eyewitness identification and affirmed the conviction of a defendant for robbery and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The Court also rejected the argument that the district court erred by considering a prior Alabama youthful offender adjudication as a prior felony conviction for purposes of qualifying the defendant under the Guidelines as a “career offender.” The defendant claimed that a photo lineup from which an eyewitness identified him was unduly suggestive because the identification was tainted by her observation of photos of him on the internet and printed flyers. Rejecting this argument, the Court pointed out that the Constitution only prohibits identifications tainted by suggestive circumstances only when law enforcement activity is involved. Here, the witness’s observation of a surveillance videotape of the robbery prior to the lineup was not the result of police misconduct, and police officers were not involved in her independent viewing of photos on the internet. Turning to Elliot’s prior Alabama youthful offender adjudication, the Court recognized that it would not count as a conviction under Alabama law. However, federal law, not state law, determined whether a prior adjudication counted as a conviction for Guideline “career offender” purposes. The Court noted that, under its precedent, a plea of nolo contendere with adjudication withheld is a conviction for career offender purposes, and reasoned that a youthful offender adjudication “must also be considered” a conviction.