In California, whenever children (anyone below 18) commit serious crimes, the laws consider several factors that help to determine a fitting punishment. Usually, minors are given another chance to reform. However, certain serious crimes, such as those set out under the CA Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 707, bear hefty penalties and could affect the juvenile’s adult life.
Enlisting the services of a seasoned attorney could help ensure that the child gets the legal counsel they deserve. For professional legal services regarding juvenile delinquency issues in Los Angeles, you can contact the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney.
An Overview of California’s Three-Strike Law
California’s three-strike law is a sentencing structure whereby repeat offenders are charged with harsher punishments. This sentencing scheme provides maximum sentences of 25 years up to life in prison to perpetrators of violent or serious felonies.
The law, stipulated under PEN 667, guarantees that offenders who commit serious crimes get harsher prison sentences. These sentences increase with each severe ensuing crime committed. Whenever you are convicted of a violent or serious felony, your conviction will impact any succeeding conviction you’ll receive.
For example, suppose an offender has previously been convicted of a violent felony. In that case, the sentence for any future felony conviction will double the maximum term permitted by the law. However, if an offender has two previous convictions for a violent crime, a third charge will result in 25 years to a life sentence.
California’s three-strike law's purpose is to give felony offenders longer and harsher sentences, provided they have previous felony convictions on their records. Besides longer sentences, defendants convicted under this law get lesser custody credits. The custody credits are awarded to convicts for time spent in custody with good conduct. These credits lessen the days an offender remains in prison.
For each day spent in jail before sentencing, the offender gets a one-day credit. This implies that two days of detention will equate to 4 days of time served in prison. Any ordinary defendant could have their sentences lessened by this. However, anyone convicted under California’s three strikes law cannot.
Any defendant facing a second or a third strike has to complete approximately 80 percent of their sentences before they are considered for an early discharge, even if they have portrayed good conduct throughout the incarceration period. Defendants charged with violent crimes are required to serve approximately 85 percent of their sentences.
Finally, you can't serve the entire sentence simultaneously if you are a striker and are found guilty of multiple offenses in a single case. Strikers must serve their sentences consecutively according to the law. This means that you can only complete one sentence after another.
The Juvenile Strike Law
Minors are well protected under California Law. The laws propose ways that help to rehabilitate juveniles when they face charges for crimes. This is why minors are not usually tried in the adult criminal system. They are instead tried in the juvenile court system, where the penalties are aimed at rehabilitation.
Nevertheless, there could be cases where juveniles are tried as adults. This happens when children aged 16 or 17 perpetrate crimes regarded as violent or serious. They are listed under the Welfare and Institution Code section 707(b). The charges under this law render the minor fit to be tried under California’s three-strike law. A majority of these offenses are tried in juvenile courts. However, some call for trial in the adult criminal court system.
Juvenile strikes are criminal offenses perpetrated by minors under the three-strike law. Whenever a minor perpetrates any of these offenses, they can be taken to trial in adult court. If convicted, it could affect any other subsequent convictions.
Below are offenses, or juvenile strikes, that are laid out under the WIC Section 707(b):
- Attempted murder or murder
- Arson of an occupied building that results in severe physical injuries
- Rape using violence, force, or threats of significant physical harm
- Sodomy with violence, force, or threats of significant physical harm
- Lascivious or lewd acts on a minor below 14 using violence, force, or threats of significant physical harm
- Oral copulation using violence, force, or threats of great physical harm
- Violent sexual penetration
- Kidnapping for robbery or to collect ransom that results in great physical harm
- Assault using force that is likely to cause great physical harm
- Assault using a destructive device or a firearm
- Displaying a firearm in a threatening manner
- A felony offense perpetrated by a minor, where they utilized a weapon
- Discouraging a witness
- Bribing a witness
- Compounding, selling, or manufacturing 8 ounces or even more of any controlled substances
- Violent felonies that include a criminal gang enhancement
- Escaping from a county juvenile establishment, home, camp, or ranch, violating Section 871 when great physical harm is deliberately inflicted on the establishment’s member of staff during the escape
- Aggravated mayhem
- Kidnapping to commit sexual assault
- Kidnapping when carjacking
- Perpetrating a drive-by shooting
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Using destructive devices as explosives to commit murder
If a minor is convicted of any offenses listed above, it could greatly affect their future. This is why it is recommended that you enlist the help of a criminal attorney who has experience handling similar cases. An attorney can help avert your child from being convicted of a juvenile strike charge.
Bear in mind that not every juvenile criminal conviction is considered a strike. It only applies to those involving serious or violent felonies, for example, those already mentioned above. Also, the juvenile has to be at least 16 or 17 years for the felonies to be regarded as a strike. Any offender aged 18 is inevitably tried in an adult criminal court.
When a defendant loses the trial or enters a plea deal, the conviction will be added to their criminal record. That conviction will be regarded as a strike if it is among the offenses stipulated under Section 707(b) Welfare and Institutions Code.
California's three strikes law mandates that the minor is a minimum of 16 years or above when the crime was perpetrated. This implies that the conviction won’t be regarded as a strike when the minor was under 16 years when they perpetrated the offense. This is still the case even though the conviction happened when the minor was already 16 years old.
Generally, a juvenile conviction needs to satisfy four terms to be regarded as a juvenile strike. They include:
- At the time when the minor perpetrated the offense, he or she was at least 16 years but not above 18
- The minor’s case was regarded as befitting to be determined in the juvenile court
- The crime perpetrated was a serious or violent felony
- The minor became a ward of the court based on the perpetration of the felony
The Consequences of Receiving a Juvenile Strike
If a minor’s conviction is regarded as a juvenile strike under California’s three-strikes rule, it could result in the following:
- Confinement in the state’s Division of Juvenile Facilities, often known as, the Division of Juvenile Justice
- An increment in their adult criminal sentencing
The Division of Juvenile Facilities guides a detention and correction system especially utilized for California’s serious juvenile offenders. This establishment was previously called the California Youth Authority (CYA). It is a branch of the corrections and rehabilitation department.
The Division of Juvenile Facilities is the nearest equivalent to a regular prison a minor offender will experience. Minor offenders sent to the facility include those who:
- Have become the court’s wards
- Whose most recent criminal act is listed in California’s WIC under section 707(b)
- Their most recent criminal act is a sex-related crime that’s stipulated under California PEN 270.008(c)
Minors committed to the Division of Juvenile Facilities serve lengthy and harsher punishments due to the nature of their crimes. The length of the offender's term in the facility could be similar to the prison term they would have served as convicted adults. When minors are incarcerated, they are put in locked-down facilities as per their ages, maturity levels, risk, and educational and individual needs.
Whenever a minor has a record of being incarcerated at the DJF/DJJ, they will be regarded as a juvenile striker. When they commit another crime as adults, their juvenile records will result in an increment in their sentences.
A juvenile record can be used as a prior for an adult defendant if:
- The defendant committed a serious or violent crime when he or she was at least 16 years above
- He or she became a ward of the court after their conviction
- The crime perpetrated by the minor is specified under the WIC 707(b) as a violent or serious felony offense
- The judge upheld the offense in a single petition
In LA, the prosecution can not bring juvenile strike charges against a minor aged 16 or 17 unless the crime perpetrated was forcible rape or murder.
Do Minors Have Any Legal Options?
If your loved one is facing criminal charges resulting in a juvenile strike, you should consider whatever options they might have to avert the aforementioned effects of a conviction. A seasoned juvenile lawyer can offer you legal counsel and guarantee the outcome if the case aligns with your child's best interest.
A minor could have the following options:
California laws permit offenders to negotiate with the District Attorney to reduce their charges. This helps to avert the impacts of harsher penalties.
In such cases, their criminal defense attorney could negotiate with the DA on behalf of the minor to reduce their charges and prevent a strike on their record. The prosecution has to approve of having the charges enhanced or dismissed. Certain bargains could warrant the involvement of the judge.
Once you’ve agreed, the minor is entitled to retain the juvenile court judge to adjudicate their sentence or disposition.
Transfer hearings involve taking the juvenile offender’s case from the juvenile court system to the adult criminal court system. Any minor at least 16 years old and facing juvenile strike charges is entitled to receive a transfer hearing.
The juvenile court judge, in such cases, will have to decide if the minor is fit to have their case taken to the adult criminal system. When the judge considers the juvenile offender unsuited for the juvenile court system, they could move the matter to the adult court.
Instances that Could Persuade a Court to Grant a Waiver Petition and Send a Juvenile Case to Adult Court
As was already noted, there are some circumstances where juvenile delinquents can be tried in the adult court system rather than the juvenile justice system. It primarily applies to young offenders who have attained the age of 16 and are accused of committing charges that warrant juvenile strikes. Keep in mind that not every case is eligible for a transfer hearing. When your loved one's matter is moved to the adult court system, he or she will go through a trial and be sentenced like other adult defendants.
Whenever a child is taken into custody for allegedly committing a certain crime, they need to be brought before the juvenile court judge before two days have passed. The juvenile court judge could decide to summon a case transfer hearing to establish whether the juvenile delinquent is qualified to face prosecution in the juvenile justice system or whether their case needs to be moved to the adult criminal court. Certain factors that could have an offender's case qualified for a transfer hearing include the following:
- The level of sophistication of the juvenile's criminal conduct as shown by the perpetration of their crime
- If the child could be rehabilitated before the juvenile court's jurisdiction expires
- If the child has a record of misconduct
- How well has the court rehabilitated offenders in the past
- The seriousness of the current criminal act committed and the conditions surrounding it
When the judge determines that the juvenile is unsuited to face prosecution in the juvenile court system,
that court will send their case to the prosecution, and the minor will face trial like adult defendants. Facing a trial as a juvenile in the juvenile court system has its benefits and drawbacks, as does facing charges in the adult court system. The following are some advantages of having a juvenile court trial:
- The best interests of the minor, the crime's victims, and the general public are always protected under juvenile court supervision. Consequently, the severity of the punishment meted out to a juvenile offender might not always be in line with the severity of the crime
- Juvenile court processes move much faster than those in adult justice courts
- They're also less intricate
- The juvenile will be shielded from adult offenders even if they have committed a criminal act
- Having the minor's conviction removed from their record is fast and easy
The following are some benefits of having your case heard by an adult criminal court:
- Every individual has the right to receive a fair trial. This can involve a jury in the proceedings, and it only applies if you are being tried in an adult criminal court system
- Adult defendants can post bail, ensuring a speedier discharge from custody while their case is resolved. Juvenile offenders who are being tried in the juvenile court system may have to wait in detention until the court determines what will transpire
- In adult courts, there's always the possibility of plea bargains, in which case the charges against the offender might be discharged or lessened
- If charged with a serious felony, an adult perpetrator could receive a lesser punishment than a child whose case was heard in the juvenile court system.
Deferred Entry of Judgment for Juvenile Strike Charges
A deferred entry of judgment happens when an accused pleads guilty to a purported offense but is exonerated at the time the plea is entered. The judge might decide to adjourn their cases for up to a year. The prosecutor and the defendant's defense attorney typically agree on the time frame before setting it.
Following the setting of a sentencing date, the perpetrator is given guidelines on what they should do. If the accused person meets those conditions within the time frame specified, the court may discharge the matter when the date established for the conviction comes around.
In California, juvenile delinquents are eligible for deferred entry, but they can only qualify under certain conditions. There must be reasonable grounds to believe the minor is guilty of perpetrating a non-violent criminal act. But he/she shouldn't have pleaded guilty to committing any of the crimes listed in California's Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b).
If a juvenile delinquent challenges their criminal counts during the jurisdictional hearing, they will not be eligible for the deferment. The latter requirement applies even if the prosecutor does not uphold the juvenile's charges as per WIC 707 (b).
Deferred entry of judgment has several advantages for your beloved one:
- It enables the minor to receive rehabilitation rather than punishment. Keep in mind that the goal of the juvenile court system is rehabilitation, not punishment. Minors should be given a second chance in life
- It exempts your beloved one from the obligations of probation. The juvenile is only required to comply with a few conditions set by the court. For instance, one of these conditions can include completing a counseling or drug rehabilitation program
- It removes the chance that the young offender would have a sentence on their record. Once the juvenile has completed the requirements of the court, the magistrate will dismiss the charges, and the case will never reflect on their record
- If questioned, the juvenile can safely and legally state that they have never been convicted or arrested for any crime
Getting a Juvenile Strike Record Expunged
A juvenile strike conviction can have long-term effects on the minor as an adult. He or she could have trouble getting a job that suits them. A minor might have trouble getting professional licenses and would not be welcomed with open arms into professional groups.
According to California law, anyone with prior convictions is eligible to petition to have their criminal records expunged to prevent these and several other repercussions. When a criminal record is erased, it is no longer accessible to the public and can't be used against the defendant going forward.
Section 781 of California's Welfare and Institutions Act allows for expunging juvenile strikes. The expungement procedure can be completed at any time. Juvenile criminal records can also be sealed under the law. If the perpetrator or his/her family fails to ask the court to seal these records, a previous conviction can be used against them in the future to increase their penalties if they're found to be guilty of another crime.
Do Parents Have to Pay the Court Fines For Their Children?
Parents could be obliged to settle fines levied against their children. These costs might include fines, court costs, and victim reparations. Even though the child must work to repay the debts, their parents are essentially in charge of paying the fines. You can contact a juvenile attorney to learn more about California juvenile laws and parental obligations.
Up To What Age is a Youth Deemed a Juvenile?
Every person who is 17 years old or younger is categorized as a juvenile under federal law. Nevertheless, every jurisdiction has been granted the mandate to determine who, based on age, could face charges in the juvenile justice system.
Under certain conditions, cases could be transferred from the criminal court to the juvenile court and vice versa. A minor who is prosecuted in criminal courts can be regarded as "a youthful offender." With a youthful offender designation, a juvenile may receive a closed session and have their record sealed after turning 21.
Find a Los Angeles Juvenile Delinquency Attorney Near Me
If your loved one is facing criminal charges for a serious offense, you should do everything possible to ensure they do not receive a juvenile strike. Understanding the case and options available to your beloved one will help you to prepare for a solid defense.
If your loved one is facing serious or violent felony charges now, contact Los Angeles Criminal Attorney at 424-333-0943. Let one of our seasoned and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers analyze your case and offer guidance on the best course of action.