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Court Upholds Guilty Plea Although Defendant Wasn't Advised of Adam Walsh Impact

Mark Allen Youngs pleaded guilty to child pornography offenses, and as part of the sentencing process was advised by the district court of his various rights under Rule 11, but was not advised of possible ramifications of his guilty plea under 18 U.S.C. Section 4248(a)(2006), also known as the Adam Walsh Act (Act). The Act permits the Attorney General, his designee, or the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to institute a proceeding where an individual can be civilly committed as a "sexually dangerous" person, if the individual suffers from a "serious mental illness," and "would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released."

The Government asserted that Youngs did not timely object during his plea proceeding, and that the matter should be reviewed under the "plain error" standard, a higher barrier for the defendant to clear. Norton v. Sam's Club, 145 F.3d 114 (2d Cir. 1998).

The standard considered by the reviewing court in reviewing the adequacy of a guilty plea is whether or not he is "fully aware of the direct consequence" of his guilty plea. Brady v. U.S., 394 U.S. 238 (1969). However, these consequences must be "direct," rather than just a consequence of the plea. "District courts need not inform a defendant of collateral consequences during the plea colloquy. U.S. v. Salerno, 66 F.3d 544 (2d Cir. 1995). Direct consequences are defined as those that have a "definite, immediate and largely automatic effect on the defendant's punishment," Salerno, 66 F.3d at 551.

The Appellate court defined the civil commitment process under the Act as not being "definite, immediate, and largely automatic, since "Youngs will not face possible confinement under the Act until the end of his period of incarceration. Once he reaches that time, civil commitment is uncertain."

Youngs also suggested that the case of Padilla v. Kentucky should grant him relief, because his defense lawyer failed to advise him of all of the consequences of his guilty plea, and thus constituted ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment. 130 S.Ct. 1473, 1481-82 (2010). The court distinguished the finding of Padilla, which concerned an alien facing deportation as a result of his guilty plea in a criminal case, as inapplicable, because Padilla protections would not attach "to such a remote and uncertain consequence as civil commitment." See: United States v. Youngs, 687 F.3d 56 (2d Cir. 2012).

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Related legal case

United States v. Youngs