When Can a Juvenile Be Tried in Adult Court?

Proposition 21 of “The Juvenile Justice Initiative” Is No Longer Upheld

For over a decade, 14- to 17-year-olds could face adult charges in the state of California through Proposition 21 of “The Juvenile Justice Initiative.”  However, in February 2021, a unanimous decision by the California Supreme Court put an end to the harsh measures, which led to overcrowded prisons and developmental issues for juvenile offenders.

Why Are Some Minors No Longer Tried as Adults?

The law allowed minors to face adult consequences for crimes and possibly transfer a 14- to 17-year-old into an adult criminal court. Many found that these laws were too harsh and led to significant social, developmental, and economic problems for the minors charged as adults.

What Has the California Supreme Court Changed?

The new change states that 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds cannot be charged as adults for most crimes. However, the severity of the crime can still determine whether a young minor is charged as an adult.

Regardless of the crime, minors facing criminal charges can encounter severe consequences that affect the rest of their life. If your child is being charged with a crime, speak with a juvenile defense lawyer to determine the best possible options for your case.

When Can Juveniles Be Tried as Adults in California?

Generally, most minors are arrested for smaller crimes and do not face the same punishments for their actions. Most California juvenile cases often adjudicate as delinquency matters in juvenile court, and minors encounter rehabilitation instead of punishments.

California allows 16- to 17-year-olds to be tried as adults in California in the California Superior Court through the following procedures:

  • Filing a fitness hearing
  • Filing directly in an adult criminal court at the prosecutor’s discretion
  • Through certain predetermined aggravated offenses that allow for an automatic trial

However, not all minors 16 or older will be punished through the adult criminal justice system, as this is typically required only for the most severe crimes. Depending on the circumstances, you may still be tried within the juvenile justice system instead of in adult court.

We encourage you to work with a juvenile defense attorney if you want to avoid being tried as an adult in adult criminal court. An experienced lawyer from Aron Law Firm can support you, helping you avoid adult jail, life imprisonment, more severe sentences, and other negative penalties for certain crimes.

When Can Children Under 16 Be Tried as an Adult?

Even while California’s law now prohibits children under 16 from being prosecuted as adults, some situations can lead to an adult trial. The following are some crimes that a minor can still encounter adult charges according to the California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 707(b):

  • Murder
  • Certain sex crimes
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault with a firearm or destructive device
  • Torture
  • Voluntary manslaughter

If your child is facing harsh legal consequences, contact a juvenile defense lawyer as soon as possible. Every case is unique and requires extensive amounts of evidence and documentation. With the help of an experienced lawyer, you will have someone on your side to guide you through the process.

Can a Juvenile Defense Lawyer Help You?

In the best-case scenario, Aron Law Firm can help reduce the severity of any penalties you would face in adult criminal court, meaning you can receive a lighter sentence. In many cases, we can help ensure you are only penalized within the juvenile system and are not tried as an adult.

We know an adult correctional facility can be too harsh or overbearing for a juvenile defendant, so we will fight on your behalf through the legal process. In comparison, juvenile courts and juvenile records are much more likely to handle a juvenile’s case more fairly, especially in comparison to the adult criminal justice system. If you are facing charges and any California state laws put you at risk of severe penalties, feel free to contact Aron Law Firm.

What Is a Juvenile Court Fitness Hearing?

Fitness hearings are legal proceedings that decide whether juveniles who have committed a serious crime can amend themselves through rehabilitation programs and other youth services. If they are deemed “unfit” for rehabilitation or educational consequences within the juvenile justice system, they can be charged as adults.

When filing a fitness petition, a prosecutor can request a hearing as well. Once in the hearing, a juvenile court judge will determine whether the minor is fit for juvenile rehabilitation consequences by evaluating the following:

  • Prior delinquent history, including whether the minor is a repeat offender
  • Degree of criminal sophistication and intent, including felony offenses, whether it was a violent crime, and whether there are issues relating to impulse control
  • Expiration of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction for the minor
  • Success of previous rehabilitation attempts
  • Circumstances and severity of the alleged offenses

Other factors may also impact a court’s decision. Suppose the California judge decides that the juvenile offender is unlikely to change from rehabilitation by the juvenile delinquency court. In that case, their case will be transferred to adult court, and the minor can face traditional prosecution and consequences.

Contact a Dependable California Juvenile Defense Lawyer at Aron Law Firm

Everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes they have harsher consequences than our children imagine. When your child faces severe punishment and the possibility of adult charges, their freedoms, future, and life are at risk. The juvenile justice system is far less likely to have a negative impact on your child’s life than adult court. It is essential that you speak with an experienced juvenile defense lawyer. Our lawyers at Aron Law Firm have years of experience protecting our clients from severe legal penalties.

We understand that every case is unique and will provide you with legal services tailored to your case and needs. With our resources and tools, you can count on our team for representation you can trust. Call (805) 618-1768 or fill out our contact form to learn how our Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyers can help you.