United States v. Sitton, No. 18-4831 (4th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Sitton pled guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm. The district court calculated an enhanced base offense level under U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(a)(3) based on his South Carolina first-degree assault and battery (A&B) conviction. The enhancement applies if a defendant has a prior felony conviction for either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense; a “felony conviction” is “an adult conviction" under that jurisdiction's laws.
Sitton appealed, arguing that his A&B conviction arose from an incident when he was 16 years old; he pled guilty and was sentenced under South Carolina's Youthful Offender Act (YOA) at age 18. The YOA defines “youthful offender” as an offender who is under 17 years of age and has been charged with a non-violent crime. Upon conviction of a youthful offender in general sessions court, the court may: place the youthful offender on probation; sentence the youthful offender to an indeterminate sentence not to exceed six years; or, if the court finds that the offender will not benefit from treatment, sentence the youthful offender “under any other applicable penalty provision.”
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the sentence. The South Carolina Supreme Court and statutes distinguish juvenile adjudications in family court from adult convictions in general sessions court. Where, as here, a defendant is convicted in general sessions court, that conviction is an “adult conviction” for purposes of the Sentencing Guidelines even if the defendant committed the offense before turning 18.