As a parent, the last thing you want to do is see your child face trial as an adult in court. Many crimes committed by juveniles are delinquent behaviors and adjudicated through rehabilitation programs rather than punishment. The crimes might come with adverse effects on your child’s future. In the worse cases, the child faces conviction in the adult criminal courts as an adult.
California law forbids minors prosecution, but several crimes committed by minors could be tried in adult courts. However, the circumstances are rare. Depending on the nature of the case, your child may become subject to trial at the criminal court. But, you may still convince the juvenile judge not to transfer the case to the adult criminal court.
The disposition at the juvenile delinquency system is favorable for your child compared to punishment at the criminal court. However, you want to work closely with an aggressive criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charge.
Our experienced attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer are ready to help your child not face conviction at the adult criminal court. We understand penalties at the criminal court might be harsh compared to the rehabilitation programs at the juvenile court system. Thus contact our attorneys today, and we will do everything to fight for the freedom and rights of your child.
California SB 1391
In Sep 2018, Senate Bill 1291 was passed, giving the district attorney power to begin a motion to move a minor from juvenile court to adult courts even when they are 16 years and above. But the statute prohibits the transfer of juveniles aged below 16 years. But it might occur when the court did not discover their case until the age of 18.
The Senate Bill 1391 substituted prop 21 approved by voters in March 2000. The juvenile justice proposal allowed the prosecution team to decide whether a child aged above 14 years would be transferred to adult courts under certain crimes after the court held a transfer hearing.
But SB 1391 declares a judge to transfer a juvenile to the adult court for adjudication. The following conditions must happen for your child to be transferred to the criminal court:
- The prosecutor has adequate reasons behind the transfer.
- The child should be aged above 16 years.
- The minor engaged in a crime when below the age of 16 but was arrested after turning 18 years.
When the Court May Sentence Your Child As an Adult
When your child is aged between 14 and 17 years, they might be tried as an adult through the following processes:
- The prosecution team files a fitness hearing petition in the juvenile delinquency court. When the juvenile judge discovers your child unfit for the rehabilitation program, they will sentence the child as an adult.
- Filing directly in an adult court at the good judgment of the prosecution team.
- Facing automatic trial at the criminal adult court for specific aggravated crimes.
The prosecution team may ask for a fitness hearing after filing for the fitness petition. In California, a fitness hearing is a procedure whereby the juvenile delinquency court judge determines whether your child accused of certain crimes is fit for rehabilitation programs or the general delinquency system. The juvenile court judge will decide whether the minor is fit for the juvenile delinquency system after evaluating the following factors:
- The level of criminal complexity revealed by the juvenile.
- Your child’s past delinquency record.
- The nature and the facts surrounding the alleged crime.
- The results of the child's prior rehabilitation program.
When the juvenile court judge determines the child is unfit for the delinquency system, the minor will be transferred to the criminal courts and face charges as an adult.
When a Prosecutor May File a Fitness Petition
The prosecution team may file for a fitness hearing under the following circumstances:
- Your child is aged above 16 years and has committed a certain crime.
- Your child is aged above 14 years, and the court accuses them of committing any crime outlined under the W&I code 707(b). Under this situation, the juvenile court will consider the child unfit for the juvenile system.
- Your child is aged above 16 years and had previously faced two or more felony convictions and was made a ward of the court. Thus the child is unfit for the juvenile delinquency system.
The Crimes Committed By a Minor and Sentenced as an Adult
California W&I code 707(b) outlines all the crimes a minor will face charges at the criminal court upon committing them after the juvenile judge finds the minor unfit for the prosecution at the juvenile delinquency system. The crimes are:
- Arson of inhabited building attracting significant bodily injuries
- Sodomy using threats, force, or violence
- Rape using threats, violence, or force of great body injuries
- Kidnapping to commit arson
- Sexual penetration by force
- Oral copulation using threats, force, or violence of greatly body injuries
- Lascivious or lewd acts against a child aged below the age of 14
- Attempted murder
- Kidnapping for robbery
- Assault using a destructive device or firearm
- Discharging firearms in an occupied or inhabited building
- Assault using force
- An offense outlined under California PC 1203.09 against a disabled or person aged above 60 years.
- A felony crime outlined in PC 136.1 discouraging a court witness or PC 137, bribing an eyewitness.
- A felony crime whereby the minor used any weapon outlined under Apc 16590(a)
- The offense outlined under PC 12022.5 involves using a deadly weapon
- Compounding, selling, or manufacturing a controlled substance is mentioned in H&S code 11055(e).
- Escaping juvenile hall, ranch, camp, forestry camp, or home through the use of violence or force
- Aggravated mayhem
- Kidnapping while committing a carjacking
- Kidnapping for sexual assault
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Exploding a dangerous weapon to commit murder
- Driving by shooting as outlined under PC 26100
The Crimes Which Automatically Cause the Prosecution of a Juvenile as an Adult
According to the California W&I section 602(b) requires a child aged above 14 years to face trial at the criminal adult courts when they commit any of the following crimes:
- Murder comes with special situations when the prosecution team alleges the minor killed the alleged victim.
- Specified crime when the prosecution team alleges the juvenile engaged in the offense with other aggravating factors, including:
- Rape using threats, violence, or force
- Spousal rape using violence, force, or threats to cause bodily injuries
- Forcible rape when performing concerts with another person
- Sexual penetration by force
- Lascivious or lewd acts against a child aged below 14 years using threats, violence, or force
- Lascivious or lewd acts wards a child aged below 14 years as per the California penal code 288
What is the California Criminal Court Legal Process for the Above Offenses?
When the court charges your child with any of the above offenses, it's recommended you understand the legal process to learn what to do. Working with a skilled criminal defense attorney is highly preferred since they will help you throughout the legal process. The stages of the criminal court process will include the following:
Under this phase, the court allows the juvenile to either plead guilty or not guilty. If your child enters a guilty plea, the court will go directly to sentence them. But when they don’t plead guilty, the court will then focus on a bail hearing. You may ask your attorney to advise your child when they don’t understand the legal matters well.
The last thing you wish to have is to see your child at the detention center waiting for trial. Thus you want to hire a criminal defense attorney for your child to have them present mitigating factors and secure the release of your child. Remember, in the juvenile court system, the court won’t release the minor on bail. But, they can release them on recognizance after the court discovers the child will show up at the future court dates. Ensure your child observes the court orders to avoid more penalties.
California Pretrial Phase
When your child declares a no guilty plea, the case will move to the pretrial stage. When the alleged crime is a felony, the court will hold a preliminary hearing to ensure the child doesn’t face charges without enough evidence. The presiding judge will consider whether it's true your child engaged in the crime and whether the alleged crime occurred. If the judge considers your child not to answer the question, the charges will be dropped. Alternatively, when the judge affirms your child has to answer certain questions, the case will move to the next level. Thus your child’s criminal defense attorney may file various motions like:
- Motion to leave behind the information
- Motion to curb evidence
- The pitchess motion
The above motions focus on weakening the prosecutor’s evidence by having various or full evidence eliminated. When the court grants any of the motions, it will mean the court will dismiss certain evidence. Your child’s criminal attorney will help you understand the above motions and choose the one that suits your child's situation.
As mentioned above, under the juvenile delinquency system, the courts do not have juries like under the criminal courts. Under the state’s law, when defendants become subject to felony or misdemeanor charges, they will undergo jury trial. The child will then choose between jury trial, court, or bench trial. Consult your child's attorney if you’re confused about what to do.
After the jury discovers your child guilty for the alleged crime, they will become subject to a sentencing hearing. The court will allow both sides to suggest the proper sentence. The child’s attorney will present their mitigating factors as the prosecution team presents their aggravating circumstances. Remember, the mitigating factors may influence the jury's judgment, and that’s why it's recommended you represent them during the court proceedings.
The criminal court proceedings will give your child several advantages over the juvenile court system. So, you want to work closely with a criminal defense attorney to help you understand more about the court process and discover ways of protecting the rights and freedom of your child as they face trial under adult criminal courts.
What are the Merits of Minors Facing Trial as Adults?
Your child’s criminal defense attorney will work hard to block the juvenile court from moving the case to the adult criminal courts. Many defense attorneys will try to convince the juvenile court judge to sustain the case at the juvenile court. When the juvenile judge decides to move the case to the adult criminal court, you might feel like you have lost the case. But, there are still a lot of merits that will come with the minor facing trial as an adult. The following are the common benefits:
- The judge’s decision from the adult court might favor the juvenile as they sympathize with the young age. Thus they may reduce or drop the child’s charges.
- Your child will have the freedom and right to a jury trial which isn’t applicable at the juvenile delinquency courts. It means the jury will listen to your child’s case depending on the merits. Also, the jury will make a judgment based on the facts surrounding the case.
- Your child may end up facing a lighter sentence.
What are the Disadvantages of Juveniles Tried as Adults in California?
One of the main reasons why many criminal defense attorneys try to prevent the juvenile judge from moving the case to the adult criminal court is the severe disadvantages the minor will encounter. The various disadvantages will include the following:
- The child might face harsh sentences. The severity of the penalty will vary based on the facts surrounding the case. Your child may even face a life sentence, although the incidents are not common. The juvenile delinquency system focuses on rehabilitating the minor and avoiding the harsh penalties. Also, the child may face extensive jail terms.
- When the child faces conviction as an adult, they will have a criminal record. It means the conviction will become a block to their future, especially when seeking a job when obtaining a professional license. Under the juvenile cases, the cases are handled confidentially, and the court has limited access to the child's criminal records. In many cases, the child's records are erased as soon as they complete their rehabilitation programs, meaning they will not have a criminal record.
- Several treatments, disposition, and counseling programs available at the juvenile court system are absent in adult criminal courts. The common disposition in the juvenile courts is rehabilitation and treatment programs. But, at the adult criminal courts, the child will be subject to extensive jail terms and heavy fines.
- The procedure of sealing criminal records is more challenging in adult criminal courts than in juvenile delinquency courts. For instance, in the juvenile delinquency courts, several cases qualify for direct expungement. Thus it's recommended you hire a competent criminal defense attorney to help your child face trial at the juvenile delinquency courts rather than facing conviction at the adult criminal courts.
The Penalties and Punishment for the Juvenile Tried as Adults in California
When the juvenile delinquency court punishes your child, the most severe penalty will be a commitment to the California youth authority. However, the child may face other penalties, including:
- Deferred entry judgment.
- Formal probation at a home or detention camp.
- Commitment to the California youth authority for at least 25 years.
Remember, when the court sentences your child as an adult, they will face penalties just like the adult offenders. For instance, they will pay heavy fines, remain behind bars for long periods and even serve long probation terms. But the penalties will vary depending on the nature of the alleged crime. Perhaps the criminal court will not sentence your child to a death sentence.
After learning the consequences your child will face when convicted like an adult, it's recommended you seek legal help from a competent criminal defense attorney. The attorney will do everything to ensure the freedom and rights of your child are well guarded. Also, they will try to convince the court and the prosecution team to have your child tried at the juvenile court. Again, they will build a strategy to ensure the court drops or dismisses the case.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
When the police arrest your child in Los Angeles over a criminal offense, you seek legal advice from a skilled criminal defense attorney. You mustn’t understand every time your child will face trial at the juvenile court after they commit a crime. Sometimes, several crimes are tried at the adult criminal courts based on the nature and the facts surrounding the case.
Our skilled attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer have decades of years defending children facing severe criminal offenses in Los Angeles. Thus, we are ready to invest our time fighting for your child's rights for the best outcome of their case. Call us today at 310-502-1314, and we will start working on your child’s case immediately.