In November, voters in California passed Proposition 57 with the goal of reducing the overall size of the prison population. As such, the law gives judges, not prosecutors, the power to determine whether accusations of juvenile crimes should be heard in juvenile courts. Some defense attorneys are now successfully arguing that the law should apply retroactively to cases that were pending at the time the law was passed, rather than only to cases in which charges were filed after its passage.
One appeals court has recently ruled against prosecutors in a case that involves a crime committed by a person who was a juvenile at the time. As a result of the ruling, a different judge recently made the decision to allow a case to be moved to juvenile court for a determination of whether the defendant should be tried as an adult. In that case, police say the then 17-year-old murdered a classmate and attempted to murder another as part of gang-related activity.
Another case invoking the same argument regarding Proposition 57 is currently pending in a court of appeals. In that case, the now 22-year-old was accused of attempted murder when he was a juvenile and was convicted as an adult. Attorneys for the man previously filed an appeal, claiming judicial error, but have recently filed an additional motion with the court claiming that Proposition 57 should apply to the case because it was still in the appeals process when the law was passed.
Proposition 57 could have significant impact for those in California accused of juvenile crimes. As some of these cases demonstrate, a retroactive application may be appropriate in certain scenarios. Having an attorney with knowledge and experience with cases involving a juvenile could ultimately have a large impact on the potential consequences if a defendant is ultimately convicted of the charges.
Source: marinij.com, "Novato murder defendant's case sent to juvenile court", Gary Klien, Feb. 12, 2017