Whether you love or hate the California legal system, you have to admire its efforts to keep the society a safer place. In California, juveniles are not treated the same way as adults if they are arrested for a crime. Usually, these crimes are handled by juvenile courts, which view the crime as delinquency. If a minor is convicted of delinquency, the courts believe in rehabilitation rather than incarceration.
What crimes prosecute juveniles as adults in CA?
In California legal systems, a minor can be treated and prosecuted as an adult based on the gravity of the crime committed. This holds good for minors 14 years and above. In certain situations, such minors can be tried as adults. The prosecutors have the onus of deciding whether a minor who is a minimum of 14 years should be tried as an adult for certain crimes or not.
Trying minors as adults
There are certain circumstances when minors between the ages of 14 and 17 are tried as adults. These circumstances include:
- The prosecutor files the case directly in the adult criminal case
- The juvenile court adjudges after a fitness hearing that the minor cannot be rehabilitated
- The minor is automatically tried as an adult for certain offenses
Crimes that could see juveniles prosecuted as adults
The crimes that a minor commits are the deciding factor. These crimes are listed down in the California Welfare & Institution Code Section 707 (b) and are used when the juvenile is considered unfit for rehabilitation.
Some of the crimes are as follows:
- Rape through violence or threat of bodily harm to the victim or force
- Arson leading to injury of a person
- Arson of an inhabited building or structure
- Robbery or theft of valuables
- Sodomy through threat of bodily harm to the victim, force or violence
- Committing a lewd act on another minor under the age of 14 through threats, violence or force
- Oral sex through force, threat of bodily harm or violence
- Attempted murder
- Assault using a firearm
- Firing a firearm in a populated building
This is a just a brief list and there are many more crimes to this list. You should consult a qualified attorney who specializes in California juvenile law for getting proper information.
What happens when a juvenile is tried as an adult?
When a juvenile is tried and found guilty as a minor, he or she is committed in the Division of Juvenile Facilities which is under the California Department of Corrections. The juvenile stays in the facility until attaining the age of 25.
The juvenile also can be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, based on how serious the crime was. However, under no circumstances can a juvenile be sentenced to death even if tried as an adult as per Californian law.
Understanding juvenile fitness hearing
A fitness hearing is done by the juvenile court judge. This hearing is to determine whether a juvenile charged with the crime can be rehabilitated after a court case in the juvenile court. The fitness hearing is conducted after the prosecutor files a fitness petition.
5 criteria of judgment
The juvenile court judge comes to a conclusion based on 5 criteria which are as follows:
- What level of criminal ability the juvenile displayed while committing the crime
- Whether the juvenile can be rehabilitated and returned to civil society before the juvenile court’s jurisdiction expires
- The previous crimes committed by the juvenile
- The circumstances and seriousness of the crime
- If the judge feels the juvenile cannot be rehabilitated, the juvenile is prosecuted as an adult, as per the prevailing laws of California.
Filing fitness petition
The prosecutor can request for a fitness hearing under certain circumstances which are as follows:
- The juvenile is at least 16 years at the time of committing and was the ward of the court. Furthermore, the juvenile should have committed two or more crimes after the age of 14
- The juvenile is a minimum of 14 years and committed one of the crimes mentioned in the Welfare and Institutions Code 707 (b)
If your child or ward is a minor and charged with a crime that could see him or her prosecuted as an adult, you should immediately seek assistance from a qualified and experienced attorney.