Tuten v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Residence of Gates

DOCKET NO.: 81-6756
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: District of Columbia Court of Appeals

CITATION: 460 US 660 (1983)
ARGUED: Mar 01, 1983
DECIDED: Mar 30, 1983

Barbara E. Etkind - on behalf of the Respondent
Linda Gillespie Stuntz - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Tuten v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 01, 1983 in Tuten v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 30, 1983 in Tuten v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and the opinion of the court in Tuten against the United will be announced by Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case is here on certiorari to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The case concerns the provision of the Federal Youth Corrections Act which governs the sentencing of defendants who are under the age of 22 at the time of their conviction.

Section 502 (1) of the Act allows certain youth offenders who were sentenced under the Act to let -- to have their convictions set aside.

This set aside provision were designed and to promote the rehabilitation of youth offenders by providing an incentive for them to behave positively while serving a sentence under the Act.

In 1971, the petitioner in this case was then under 19 years of age was placed on probation for two years under the Youth Correction Act, had been pleaded guilty to the charge of carrying a pistol without a license.

At the end of the full two-year term, he was discharged from probation.

And in 1980, petitioner again was convicted of carrying a pistol without a license.

This time, he was sentenced under the District of Columbia Code as a recidivus on the basis of his prior conviction.

On appeal, petitioner contended that his earlier conviction could not be taken into account of sentencing because his conviction had been expunged under the Youth Correction Act.

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals rejected this argument and upheld petitioner's sentence and we affirm.

Section 502 (1)(b) of the Act provides that where youth offender has been placed on probation, his conviction will be set aside if the Court, “Unconditionally discharges such youth offender from probation prior to expiration of the maximum period of probation therefore fixed by the Court.”

We hold that a conviction will not be set aside under this provision, whereas in this case, the sentence he has not exercised, rather, the sentencing court has not exercised this discretion to discharge a youth offender prior to the expiration of his term.

This interpretation is compelled by the language of the provision and its legislative history. It is fully consistent with the Congress' intent to use the set aside as an incentive for positive behavior by youth offenders.

Accordingly, petitione's previous conviction was not expunged and the trial court was free to take the conviction into account whether to impose sentence.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is thereby affirmed.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Justice Marshall.