As part of a larger effort to reduce the incarcerated populations in overcrowded prisons, Governor Jerry Brown proposed a bill last November that would make it more difficult to charge juveniles as adults in criminal cases.
The initiative was initially blocked by a judge in Sacramento, but the California Supreme Court said they would hear arguments about the bill’s legality. The bill seeks to repeal part of an initiative from 2000 that permits prosecutors to charge juveniles as young as 14 as adults in cases involving serious offenses.
The bill would also require juvenile court judges to review each case individually and determine based on the specific facts and circumstances of each case whether the juvenile should be tried in juvenile court or adult court.
Perhaps the most important distinction between being tried as an adult and tried as a juvenile is the disparity in sentencing consequences. Juveniles tried as adults can be sentenced as adults, and as such can face much longer or severe sentences.Juveniles sentenced in juvenile court to incarceration must be released at age 23.
While legal and political battles over the bill continue, supporters are working to collect the necessary number of signatures from registered voters to put the bill on the ballot in the November general election.
California’s prisons are overcrowded and the state has taken measures to actively decrease its prison population. This particular bill is one of the more direct efforts to reduce the number of juveniles who are incarcerated in our state. Its future remains to be seen, both in court and potentially on the ballot.
Katie Walsh is an attorney in Orange County, California who focuses her practice on juvenile law, criminal defense, and victim’s rights.
Contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh online or at (714) 619-9355.