When children commit severe offenses in California, the law considers many factors in determining a suitable punishment for them. Generally, a child will deserve a second chance to correct their behavior. However, some grave offenses as those listed under Section 707(b) of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, may carry a more severe penalty and sometimes affect the child in their adult life.

If your child is suspected of committing a serious felony, you may need to learn more about Juvenile Three Strikes Law and how it may affect them in the future. For help and guidance, call the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney team.

Overview of California Three Strikes Law

California Three Strikes Law is a sentencing scheme in which defendants are given a 25-year-to-life prison sentence if a criminal court convicts them of three serious felonies or violent crimes. The sentencing scheme is available under Section 667 of California Penal laws. The three-strikes law doubles the prison sentence of a person convicted of any felony offense and has a prior conviction of a violent or serious felony.

Example: Sam has two previous convictions for carjacking (a severe felony). A few years later, he faces charges for selling controlled drugs to minors (also a serious felony). Naturally, selling controlled substances to minors would attract a maximum prison sentence of 9 years. But since it is the third felony conviction in Sam’s criminal record, it will be treated as a third striker. Thus, Sam will receive a sentence of 25-years-to-life.

In addition to longer prison sentences, people who face convictions under the California Three Strikes Law receive lower custody credits. Custody credits reduce the number of days a convicted person spends behind bars. The person receives one day of credit for every day of pre-sentence they have served in jail. It means that two days of actual stay in custody could translate to four days of prison sentence served. An ordinary offender might have their sentences reduced by this, but not one sentenced under the Three-strikes Law.

The only chance a person facing a severe third felony conviction has of avoiding these grave sentences is by trying to fight their current ruling with the help of an experienced criminal attorney. If you are successful, the court might reduce or drop your current charges. Another option would be for your defense attorney to convince the judge to remove a previous conviction.

California Juvenile Strike

Juvenile strike refers to minors’ crimes below 18 that qualifies as a strike under California Three Strikes law. The list of these offenses is under Section 707(b) of the state’s Welfare and Institutions Code. Most of these crimes are tried and determined in a juvenile court, but some instances call for trying and deciding the cases in an adult criminal court.

The offenses listed under this law include:

  • Murder and attempted murder

  • Robbery

  • Arson in an occupied structure resulting in significant physical harm

  • Sodomy through violence, force, or threats to cause significant physical harm

  • Rape through fore, violence or threats to cause significant physical injury

  • Lascivious or lewd acts with a child below 14 years through violence, force, or threats to cause significant physical harm

  • Sexual penetration through force

  • Oral copulation through violence, force, or threats to cause significant physical injury.

  • Kidnapping for robbery, ransom, or resulting in bodily injury

  • Assault through force, and one likely to result in significant physical injury. also, assault by use of a destructive device or firearm

  • Discharging a gun into an occupied or inhabited building

  • Violence-related felony committed against a disabled or older person above 60

  • Use of a gun by a minor in person

  • Commission of a felony crime whereby the juvenile offender personally used a gun

  • Bribing or dissuading witnesses

  • A violence-related felony offense that could call for criminal gang sentence enhancement

  • Manufacturing, selling, or compounding at least 8 ounces of controlled substances

  • Aggravated mayhem

  • Escaping from a government facility, causing significant physical injuries on employees of the facility

  • Drive-by-shooting

  • Torture

  • Carjacking

  • Kidnaping during a carjacking or intending to assault the victim sexually

  • Violent manslaughter

  • Exploding a dangerous device intending to cause murder

Note that an ordinary felony conviction for a minor does not count as a strike under the state’s Three Strikes Law. The exception is if the sentence is for a serious felony or a violence-related offense committed when the minor was 16 or 17 years of age. Minor offenders who commit similar crimes at 18 or older can be charged in an adult criminal court.

Consequences of Juvenile Strikes

When a minor receives a juvenile strike for committing any of the offenses listed above, the court may sentence him/her to detention in the Division for Juvenile Justice Facility, which is a detention and rehabilitation facility for the most serious juvenile offenders in California. The facility is part of the state’s Department of Corrections & Rehabilitations. It is the closest young offenders will find in a juvenile system to an adult prison.

The confinement is usually prolonged and severe. Minors in detention must attend school full-time. If they complete high school, there are vocational and college programs available to be enrolled in. Once they finish school, most youths are offered jobs within the facilities where they are confined. These jobs may include food preparation, landscaping, and janitorial work.

In addition to the main programs offered in these facilities, juvenile offenders are offered additional programs as per their specific needs. Some of the extra programs available include treatment or sexual behavior, intensive behavior treatment, and mental health.

However, the sentencing does not stop at confinement to a Juvenile Justice Facility. The minor might face more penalties if they commit another offense in their adulthood. More penalties may mean an increased prison sentence and even heftier penalties. As an adult offender, a previous juvenile conviction will be treated as a prior strike if it satisfies the following conditions:

  • The offender was at least sixteen years of age when they committed the offense.

  • That the court had already made the minor a juvenile court’s ward when they got convicted of the said offense

  • That the offense is among those listed under Section 707(b) of California Welfare and Institutions Act as a serious felony or a violence-related felony crime, and the court sustained the offense in that same petition

Remember: In Los Angeles, a prosecutor might not file charges for a juvenile strike against a sixteen or seventeen-year-old minor except if the offense committed is murder or forcible rape.

Plea Bargains for Juvenile Strike

A plea bargain refers to an agreement between an offender and prosecutor in which the offender agrees to plead guilty to a less-severe charge in exchange for a more lenient punishment. Sometimes the prosecutor may promise to drop the offender’s charges if he/she agrees to take a guilty plea.

Fortunately, the same is possible for a junior offender facing a juvenile strike. The defense attorney in the offender’s case can negotiate with the DA for less-severe charges for the minor if the minor agrees to take a guilty plea. Thus, you might be able to arrange for less-severe charges or have your loved one’s charges dropped altogether.

In some cases, negotiations like these will include the judge. When the minor’s case involves a plea bargain, the law allows the minor to retain the judge who took their admission so that the same judge can determine the minor’s disposition.

Instances When Minors Can Face Prosecution in Adult Criminal Court

As earlier mentioned, there are instances in which juvenile offenders can face prosecution in an adult criminal court instead of a juvenile court. It mostly applies to juvenile offenders who are at least sixteen years old and face charges for juvenile strikes. Remember that not all cases are subject to a case transfer hearing. If your loved one’s case is transferred to an adult court, he/she will face trial and receive punishment, just like an adult.

When a minor is arrested on suspicion of committing a particular offense, they must be presented before a juvenile court judge within two days. The judge may decide to hold a transfer hearing to determine if the offender is fit to face trial in a juvenile court or his/her case should be transferred to an adult court. Some offenders whose issues may be eligible for a transfer hearing include:

  • Those who face charges for a felony crime they might have committed at the age of sixteen or older.

  • Those who are facing charges for committing any offense listed under California WIC Section 707(b). They must have committed the said offense at the age of fourteen or fifteen but were not caught before the end of a juvenile court’s jurisdiction

For them, the judge might consider some factors to determine whether or not they deserve a case transfer hearing:

  • How sophisticated the minor’s criminal behavior is, as exhibited in the commission of the current offense

  • If the minor could undergo rehabilitation before the expiration of the juvenile court jurisdiction

  • Whether the minor has a history of delinquency

  • How successful the court’s previous rehabilitations have been

  • The gravity and circumstances surrounding the current offense

If the judge decides that the minor is unfit for trial in a juvenile court, the court will refer his/her case to a prosecutor, and then the child will stand trial like an adult.

Standing trial in a juvenile court has its advantages and disadvantages, and the same goes for standing trial in an adult court as a juvenile. Some of the benefits of facing trial in a juvenile court will be:

  • The guidance of a juvenile court will always protect the child’s best interests, and the interests of the victims, and public members. Therefore, a young offender’s punishment may not necessarily match the gravity of the offense committed.

  • Juvenile court processes are much quicker than adult justice court processes. They are also less complicated.

  • The minor will be protected from adult criminals even when they are found guilty of committing the offense.

  • It is easy and quick to have a minor’s juvenile conviction expunged from their criminal record.

Some of the advantages of facing trial in an adult court include:

  • Everyone has a right to a fair trial, which includes a jury’s presence during trial. It is only applicable when you face trial in a criminal court.

  • Adult offenders have access to bail, which guarantees an earlier release from custody until their case is determined. Juvenile offenders facing trial in a juvenile court may have to remain in custody until a judge decides what will happen to them.

  • There is always a chance for plea bargaining in an adult court, whereby the offender’s charges could be reduced or dropped.

  • Adult offenders facing charges for grave felonies may receive a shorter sentence than a minor in the same situation, whose case has been decided by a juvenile court.

Deferred Entry of Judgment for Juvenile Strikes

In California, a deferred entry of judgment occurs when a defendant enters a guilty plea to an offense they are alleged to have committed but are acquitted when they entered the plea. The judge may decide to put their cases over for about a year or more. The length of time is usually determined by the prosecutor’s agreement with the defendant’s attorney. A date for the offender’s sentencing is set, and then the offender is ordered to do certain things. If the defendant completes those requirements within the given period, the court might dismiss their case when the date set for their conviction arrives.

A deferred judgment is available for juvenile offenders in California but only under specific conditions. The minor must be suspected to have committed a nonviolent offense. However, he/she should not have admitted to any crime listed under Section 707(b) of the state Welfare and Institutions Code. The deferment will not be available to a juvenile offender who contests their charges at the jurisdictional hearing. The latter condition will apply even when the prosecutor has not sustained the minor’s charges under Section 707(b).

Deferred entry of judgment comes with several benefits for your loved one:

  • It allows the minor to benefit from rehabilitation and not punishment. Remember that the juvenile justice system is all about rehabilitation and not punishment. Children must be given second chances in life.

  • It doesn’t subject your loved one to probation conditions. The court only gives the minor a few requirements which he/she must complete. These requirements are, for example, completing a drug rehabilitation program or a counseling program.

  • It eliminates the possibility that the juvenile offender will have a conviction in their criminal record. Once the minor completes the court’s requirements, the judge will dismiss the case, and the matter will never appear on their criminal record.

  • The minor can confidently and legally say that they have never been arrested or convicted of any offense if a question about the same arises.

Consequences of Juvenile Strikes

If a court convicts a minor to a juvenile strike, it has a wide range of options in the kind of punishment the court can give the minor. Punishment ranges between probation and confinement to a Juvenile Justice Facility. There are many types of probation a juvenile offender can be subjected to, both formal and informal. Custody to a Division of Juvenile Justice Facility is dependent on several factors, namely:

  • Whether the court had made the minor a juvenile court’s ward

  • Whether the recent crime the minor is alleged to have committed is under WIC Section 707(b)’s list

  • Whether this most recent crime is sex-related

If the above conditions are correct, the court may send the minor to confinement.

Expungement for a Juvenile Strike Record

As mentioned above, a conviction record for a juvenile strike can affect the minor in the future as an adult. He/she may not be able to find suitable employment. They might face difficulties when obtaining professional licenses and may not be readily admitted into professional organizations. To avoid these and many other consequences, California law allows people who have previous convictions to apply for their criminal record expungement. When a record is expunged, it is not available for public viewing and may not be used against you in the future.

Expungement of juvenile strikes is available under Section 781 of the California Welfare and Institutions Act. The expungement can be done at any time. The law also allows for the sealing of juvenile criminal records. If the offender or his/her family does not petition the court for the sealing of these records, a prior conviction could be used against the offender in the future to enhance their sentences if they are found guilty of committing another offense.

Find a Los Angeles Juvenile Criminal Attorney Near Me

If your loved one faces a conviction for a juvenile strike, it is crucial to find out what it is all about and how the sentence can impact his/her life. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have a team of experienced criminal defense attorneys that could help you out. We will advise you, take you through the legal process, and develop a strong defense that could influence your case outcome. Call us at 424-333-0943 if your child faces criminal proceedings in Los Angeles, CA.