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Criminal Resource Manual

41. Certification

Before a United States Attorney may certify a juvenile to be proceeded against in a court of the United States, an investigation must occur. In cases of exclusive United States jurisdiction, the United States Attorney should, at a minimum, research the applicable case and statutory law. It is also advisable to obtain the concurrence of the local prosecutor in a finding of exclusivity of jurisdiction. It should be noted that local juvenile prosecution based upon in loco parentis jurisdiction may be available and preferable even if the offense took place on a federal enclave. A release to state authorities of juveniles who are alleged to have committed an act of juvenile delinquency on a United States military base or other federal enclave is not precluded by the fact of the enclave's "exclusive jurisdiction" status. As long as the state is willing to accept jurisdiction over the juvenile and has available programs and services adequate for the needs of juveniles, a juvenile may properly be turned over to the state for non-criminal juvenile treatment. When a juvenile is charged with committing a violation of federal law on an exclusive jurisdiction enclave, the United States Attorney should determine whether the state is willing to assume jurisdiction over the juvenile and has adequate juvenile programs available. Such a determination may be made on a case-by-case basis after consultation with the local prosecutor, or it may be based on a general understanding reached with the local prosecutor regarding the state's willingness to assume jurisdiction over juveniles who commit offenses on federal enclaves. As to Indian juveniles, jurisdictional questions may be directed to Ezra Friedman of the Office of Enforcement Operations.

In cases of concurrent jurisdiction, the appropriate local prosecutor should be briefed on the facts of the case, and a determination made as to whether he/she is accepting or refusing prosecutorial responsibilities in the matter. If a local prosecutor refuses to assume jurisdiction over the juvenile, federal prosecutors may wish to consider whether it would be helpful to attach a confirming letter from the local prosecutor to the certification filed with the court.

With regard to the adequacy of state juvenile programs and services, the United States Attorney should request that the Chief Probation Officer in the judicial district conduct periodic investigations into the state juvenile corrections system to determine whether there are available programs and services adequate for the needs of juveniles. Federal prosecutors may wish to consider whether it would be helpful to attach to the certification a statement from the probation officer addressing the adequacy of local programs.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 allows certification for federal juvenile prosecution in felony crimes of violence, or an offense described in 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(x), 924(b),(g), or (h), or 21 U.S.C. §§ 841, 952(a), 953, 955, 959, or 960(b)(1), (2), or (3) where there is a "substantial federal interest in the case or offense to warrant the exercise of federal jurisdiction." The federal government will continue to defer to state authorities for less serious juvenile offenses. See S.Rep. No. 98-225, 98th Cong., 1st Sess. 389 (1983). The determination of a "substantial federal interest" is based on a finding by the United States Attorney that the nature of the offense or the circumstances of the case give rise to federal concerns. Id. Examples include assault on or assassination of a federal official; aircraft hijacking; interstate kidnaping; espionage or sabotage activity; large-scale drug trafficking; and willful destruction of United States property.

If, after investigation, any one of the above factors are found to exist, the United States Attorney shall proceed with the certification. The certification should state that an investigation was made and, as a result of the investigation, which of the factors allowing federal jurisdiction was found to exist.

[cited in USAM 9-8.230]