The DC Court of Appeals in Jean-Baptiste Bado v. U.S., decided on June 21, 2018, reversed the appellant’s conviction for misdemeanor sexual abuse of a minor and after a bench trial, on the ground that he was denied the right to a jury trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
The question before the Court was whether the Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to a jury trial to an accused who faces the penalty of removal/deportation when the underlying maximum penalty for the crime was only 180 days of incarceration and not by itself jury demandable.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees a bundle of trial rights to the accused and in all criminal prosecutions, the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury and only in “serious offenses”.
Series offenses have been interpreted by the courts and also by the statutory impositions for crimes punishable by maximum incarceration of 6 months or more. It is thus settled that offenses with imprisonment for more than six months cannot be considered petty for purposes of the right to trial by jury.
In this case, the period of incarceration (180 days) does not puncture the sixmonth threshold triggering a serious offense and thus jury demandable — however the penalty of deportation, when viewed together with a maximum period of incarceration that does not exceed six months, overcomes the presumption that the offense is petty and triggers the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury.
The Court detailed that deportation proceeding attached to a criminal conviction although a civil matter and not within the judgment and commitment order of the criminal case – remains to be a serious and significant event to trigger the 6th Amendment protection of the jury trial.
A legislature’s view of the seriousness of an offense is also measured by the other penalties that is attached to the offense.
Deportation is significant because of:
- The burdens and anxiety of attending detention pending removal proceedings,
- The physical separation from family and community lasts at least ten years,
- The exclusion from the country could become permanent,
- Deportation may expose individual to harsh conditions in their country of origin: extreme poverty, violence and oppression and persecution,
- Removal is considered by many immigrants to be worse than incarceration,
- The Supreme Court has long recognized that deportation is a particularly severe penalty equating it to banishment,
- The loss of liberty, akin to incarceration,
- Removed renders ineligible reentry for a longer period or permanently.
Thus the Court concluded that the penalty of deportation, viewed with the 180-day maximum period of incarceration for a misdemeanor sexual abuse of a minor, overcomes the presumption that appellant was charged with a petty offense and triggers the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury.
Refer to our Washington DC Criminal Lawyer page for more information on this and other criminal law topics.