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Judges choose if juvenile crimes go to adult court in California

Recent reform of the state's policies regarding youthful offenders will hopefully allow more young people to seek rehabilitation for offenses instead of harsh punishments. A California court decided to expand the reach of limits for those charged with juvenile crimes. In 2016, a proposition was approved that prevented prosecutors from trying young people in adult court. Now, the reach of that proposition has been expanded. 

The law, known as Proposition 57, was originally passed in 2016. It requires that judges, not prosecutors, be the ones to decide whether a case is tried in adult or juvenile court. A Riverside County case in which an individual was charged with kidnapping and sexual assault as a juvenile led to the recent decision. His trial was pending when the proposition passed, and an appeals court decided that the youth was entitled to a hearing to see whether his case should be tried in juvenile or adult court. The state Supreme Court upheld the decision of the appeals court. 

The court rules unanimously on this issue. They reasoned that extending the umbrella to the cases that were already pending allowed for a broader extension of the measure, which voters wanted. It is unclear exactly how many cases will be affected, but one district attorney has estimated 1,000 cases could be affected. 

For individuals charged with juvenile crimes in California, the news may be positive. A crime charged in regular adult court may come with stiffer penalties. For some, the new rules may be part of a defense strategy. Individuals charged with crimes have the right to defend themselves against criminal charges in a number of ways. Many people choose to use the aid of a criminal defense attorney when building a strong defense against charges. 

Source:, "California Court Expands Reach of Limits on Juvenile Charges", Sudhin Thanawala, Feb. 1, 2018

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