California Juvenile delinquent court systems are primarily used to handle crimes perpetrated by juveniles below the age of eighteen. When contrasted with the adult criminal system, the juvenile court system places a greater emphasis on rehabilitation than punishment, yet juveniles could still face significant consequences for certain crimes. Particularly, the juvenile court takes violent offenses committed by minors seriously and such offenses could have harsh and lasting repercussions. Read on to find out how minors in California are prosecuted for violent crimes.
Prosecution Of Juvenile Crimes In California
If you're below the age of 18 in California, you are considered a minor. As a result, if you break the law, you will face prosecution in juvenile court. You may, nevertheless, be prosecuted as an adult in certain cases. The key distinctions between an adult criminal court and the juvenile court is how the cases are tried, the ultimate penalties, the lasting effect of a conviction and the ability to seal a juvenile record in many cases.
The juvenile court system's main goal is to help a minor undergo rehabilitation and become a better person. In comparison, an adult court's main objective is to penalize the perpetrator. The law and the juvenile court system provide minors with an opportunity to change their habits and transform into a law-abiding individuals. Under California law, minors cannot be prosecuted in adult court.
Minors aged between 12 and 17 are subject to the supervision of a juvenile court. However, based on the severity of the crime, the juvenile justice system could occasionally have custody over a minor under the age of 12 and until the age of 25.
The Juvenile Justice Initiative, also known as California Prop 21 was approved by voters in the year 2000. The program aimed to reduce the high rates of juvenile crimes, particularly those connected to gang activity. Under this law, the prosecution could decide to prosecute a minor as an adult even if the minor is below the age of 18. The statute also outlines certain crimes that require juvenile delinquents to be prosecuted as adults. If you're accused of committing violent crimes such as murder, specified sex offenses, or any other grave and violent acts you'll be prosecuted as an adult.
Senate Bill 1391
Senate Bill 1391 was enacted in 2018 replacing Prop 21 laws. Previously, a minor below 14 years of age could have been prosecuted as an adult. However, as per Senate Bill 1391, the courts can only try you as an adult if you are the age 16 or older.
SB1391 states that you cannot be tried as an adult for offenses committed when under the age of 16. Formerly, you could have been prosecuted as an adult for major and violent offenses committed at the age of 14 or above. As per this legislation, you will only be prosecuted as an adult if you:
• are at least 16 years old.
• perpetrated the offense while under 16 years, but you weren't apprehended till you were past 18 years of age
• are over the age of 16 and the prosecution believes it is necessary to request that your case be transferred to an adult criminal court
Previously, you could have been tried as an adult if you were 16 or older and you committed a felony. You could also be tried as an adult if you committed certain violent crimes when 14 or 15 years old.
For Which Violent Crimes May A Juvenile Be Transferred for Adult Prosecution?
The perpetrated crime has to fit into one of the following categories to be prosecuted in an adult criminal court. These crimes can also be classified as 707(b) offenses that are regarded to be violent.
• Kidnapping with intent to commit robbery
• kidnapping while causing injury
• forced sexual penetration
• Kidnapping for ransom
• A lewd or lascivious act against a child under 14 years old that involves the threat of serious physical injury, force, or violence
• Threats of severe physical injury, violence, or oral copulation using force
• Rape using force, violence, or the threat of physical injury
• Sodomy using force, violence, or the threat of physical injury
• Arson targeting inhabited premises or causing serious bodily harm
• Attempted murder
• Assault using a firearm or a dangerous object
• Assault using force that can cause great bodily injury
• Exploding a device with the intent to kill
• Voluntary manslaughter
• Kidnapping with intent to commit sexual assault
• Aggravated mayhem
• intimidating or bribing a witness
• Manufacturing, compounding, or selling one-half ounce or even more of a prohibited substance
• certain crimes committed against people over 60
• firing a weapon into a structure that is populated or inhabited
• Utilizing a weapon that is specifically prohibited under California PEN 16590 (a)
What Steps Are Involved In Prosecuting A Juvenile For Violent Crimes In Adult Court?
When a minor is accused of a 707(b) crime, the District Attorney's office has two options: either they petition the juvenile court requesting a "fitness hearing," during which a judge will decide whether or not the juvenile is eligible to be tried in the juvenile court.
When juveniles under 16 years are accused of a 707(b) crime, hate crimes, offenses against victims over 65 years, or a crime that is allegedly related to gang activity, the prosecution may "direct file" the case in adult criminal court.
Typically, juvenile courts work to rehabilitate children rather than penalize them. Several criteria must be taken into consideration before prosecuting a juvenile in adult court. And there are a few different ways to go about doing this:
• Direct filing in an adult criminal court, at the prosecution's discretion
• The prosecution requests a "fitness" hearing at the juvenile court. If the judge in juvenile court determines that the accused juvenile is "unsuitable" for rehabilitation, they may be charged as an adult.
• Instant adult prosecution for some serious offenses perpetrated by a qualifying juvenile
The court could dismiss the offender's case when neither of the aforementioned steps was fulfilled before bringing the case before the adult criminal court. To make sure that the correct processes are followed, the parents or relatives of the minor should consult with a competent juvenile criminal defense attorney.
There is no bail in juvenile justice proceedings. There are detention hearings for minors during which the Court decides whether to release the minor to his/her parents during the pendency of the juvenile court case, or whether detention in a juvenile detention facility is more appropriate.
The goal of the detention hearing is to decide what the appropriate course of action is for the minor's physical custody. This is typically done to decide if the juvenile will be permitted to go back to live with their family or if they will be held in juvenile detention throughout the trial. Typically, elements including the seriousness of the offense and any prior convictions determine a person's detention standing, as well as the parents’ ability to provide a stable and suitable environment with appropriate supervision. Here, it is crucial to emphasize that the detention hearing must occur within forty-eight hours of the offender's detention. Any additional delay breaches the child's rights as well as the California juvenile laws.
Due to the absence of bail throughout the juvenile justice system, this deadline also highlights among the most crucial justifications for hiring a juvenile lawyer as soon as feasible. Because a minor's prompt freedom cannot be guaranteed, it is crucial to have a lawyer who is knowledgeable about California's laws and regulations for juveniles to help achieve a minor's Even though some violent charges may be transferred directly to adult court without a fitness hearing or even a direct filing, some charges will be entitled to stay in the juvenile delinquent court. A minor charged with wrongdoing is not permitted to post a bond to ensure their release while the matter is being decided, unlike in the adult criminal system.
The judge at the juvenile's arraignment will decide whether to order the minor to stay in incarceration while the matter is decided or to discharge the child quick discharge.
What Situations Permit The Prosecution To Request A Fitness Hearing?
Petitioning for a fitness hearing should only be done when necessary. It will inevitably be decided to the minor offender's advantage if it was not necessary. Keep in mind that California laws protect minors and wouldn't subject them to disciplinary procedures unless warranted. Only under the following circumstances must the prosecutor launch the proceedings:
• The juvenile, who is at least 14 years old, is accused of breaking Welfare & Institutions Code Section 707 (b)
• The defendant is 16 years of age or older, and they have been charged with a crime
• The juvenile is at least 16 years old, has reportedly committed an offense that rendered them a ward of the court in the past, and has perpetrated two or maybe more offenses since attaining the age of 14
It could be inappropriate for the prosecutor to submit the motion if the case is not one of the three mentioned above. Strong defense from your juvenile defense lawyer might help propose rehabilitation instead of punishment for your child.
How A Juvenile Court Fitness Hearing Works
Whether a youngster will be charged as an adult depends on the results of the fitness hearing at the juvenile court. Such proceedings are typically scheduled following the filing of a request on the matter by the prosecutors. The court will determine whether the crime was suited for the juvenile court system or if it was amenable to rehabilitation during the conclusion of the proceedings. The following elements, in particular, influence the judge's ruling:
• The minor's prior history of delinquency
• If they can get help before the juvenile justice system loses custody over them
• The offender's degree of crime sophistication
• The seriousness and specifics of the petition's purported offense
• The success of prior rehabilitation attempts
The judge may allow the matter to be forwarded to the adult criminal court if they determine that the minor would not benefit from the juvenile court's rehabilitation services.
Adjudication And Disposition
However, if the fitness hearing is either waived or concludes under California juvenile law, the adjudication hearing will become the next step. This will serve as the minor's equivalent of "trial." Remember that juveniles in California do not have the right to trial in front of a jury, thus the adjudication is handled by a judge of the juvenile court. This is yet another phase in which you must seek the assistance of a juvenile defense attorney.
The final phase is the disposition, whereby the juvenile's case result is pronounced. Unfortunately, the minor's time in the California juvenile justice system might not be done yet. Typically, the juvenile will be sentenced to probation, which is a less serious punishment than the adult version. Minors on probation are allowed to go to school, reside with a family member, receive counseling, or, based on the offense, pay compensation for damages.
However, in some situations, the youngster may be retained in state custody until they are over 18 years old as Wards of the State/Court. In some of the most severe situations, they are held until they turn 25 years old. If the juvenile court judge finds the criminal charges are well founded, minors in juvenile court are found responsible for committing an alleged offense and are not convicted per se. Hence, there is no conviction to expunge. People who have completed the juvenile program frequently request sealing of their criminal records, although some situations would make this difficult.
Even though some violent charges may be transferred directly to adult court without a fitness hearing or even a direct filing, some charges will be entitled to stay in the juvenile delinquent court. A minor charged with wrongdoing is not permitted to post a bond to ensure their release while the matter is being decided, unlike in the adult criminal system.
The judge at the juvenile's arraignment will decide whether to order the minor to stay in incarceration while the matter is decided or to discharge the child with stringent limitations so that they can go home. Making this decision will heavily rely on the probation officer's statements and recommendations.
What Consequences Can A Juvenile Face?
Serious penalties apply if minors are found guilty in adult courts. The worst-case scenario for a minor found guilty in juvenile court is that he or she would be detained until he or she reaches 25 years of age by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Department of Juvenile Facilities (previously referred to as the California Youth Authority).
Nevertheless, based on the severity of the offense, a juvenile prosecuted in adult court could receive the same punishment as an adult, a life imprisonment penalty without the chance of release. In no event can a juvenile be subjected to the death penalty.
In the juvenile justice system, minors who are charged with violent crimes have most of the comparable rights and privileges as adult offenders, such as the right to discovery, the chance to examine the evidence against them, as well as the right to summon witnesses to testify. Having a skilled juvenile defense attorney might be crucial since, in some cases, these charges could have been brought since the child might have used violence in self-defense.
Find A Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
It is normal to experience a rush of emotions if your child is charged with violent crimes. If the prosecutor wants the case to be heard in an adult criminal court since the offense is so severe, things could get much more difficult for you. Choosing the best lawyer, one who is qualified to protect the rights of your child is crucial in this situation. The Law Office of Sara L. Caplan handles juvenile criminal defense matters all around Los Angeles. We will go to a greater length to safeguard your child's welfare. Call us today at 310-550-5877.