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California Juvenile Felony Sentencing

Law Office of Katie Walsh
California Juvenile Felony Sentencing

Concerned that the minds of young people are not yet fully developed, many in the juvenile justice system are advocating for laws that would emphasize reform rather than punishment. California juvenile felony sentencing is one of the areas that youth advocates are focusing on, particularly in terms of the potential for developing career criminals.

Three Strikes

In April 2021, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón announced that he was backing pending legislation that would prevent “strikes” from counting toward sentencing enhancement for juveniles. California’s “three strikes” law is currently designed such that it can lead to prison sentences of life for repeat serious offenders, including youthful offenders.

State law treats these “strikes” for juveniles aged 16 and over the same as for adults. In such cases, a second strike would double the underlying sentence and a third felony can result in a life sentence for a youth. Gascón emphasized that ““The juvenile system is based on rehabilitation, not on punishment.” He also pointed out that juvenile offenders do not have the same constitutional protection as adults, including the right to a jury trial.

Still Need Guidance

In supporting the legislation, clinical psychologist Rahn Minagawa stated that young people, particularly those age 16 and 17, “are not fully developed adults.” They are much more likely to be driven by impulse or by peers in their behavior. To toughen their punishment for things they did as a juvenile is “just inherently unfair,” he notes.

State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) also pointed out that “treating 18- and 19-year-olds as adults makes no … sense in the criminal context.” Skinner introduced Senate Bill 889 in 2020, proposing that the reach of the state’s juvenile justice system be expanded to treat individuals under the age of 21 as minors. Skinner stated that the bill was proposed in “recognition that people under 21 still need guidance.” She pointed out that other laws, including restrictions on purchasing alcohol and tobacco, require an individual to be 21 at the “adult or responsible age.”

Brian Richart, president of the Chief Probation Officers of California, said that “the science says (those) between 18 and 24 have less than fully developed prefrontal cortexes. Their decision making is inhibited. They act impulsively and we know this, yet we treat them as if they are fully developed.”

California Juvenile Felonies

In 2018, 17,200 minors under the age of 17 were arrested for felonies in California. More than half of those were Black and 36% were Latino. In addition, approximately 14,400 individuals aged 18 and 19 were arrested on felony charges. Although raising the age of those tried in juvenile courts could potentially send thousands of new inmates to fill juvenile facilities, these young people would probably be held much longer if sent to adult facilities.

Senate Bill 823

Under Senate Bill 823, the state legislature closed the Division of Juvenile Justice within the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, effective July 1, 2021, and transferred the responsibility for youth who were wards of the court to county governments. The bill offers the opportunity for local probation departments to create a rehabilitation program, along with other interventions, that meets the needs of youth and young adults who would have been housed at regional centers operated by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Youth will remain closer to their families and communities while participating in a secure rehabilitation program.

The bill also extends the age of local juvenile court jurisdiction to 23 or 25 and repealed provisions that allowed juveniles to be detained in adult facilities. A new statewide oversight body has also been created, the Office of Youth and Community Restoration within the California Health and Human Services Agency. The mission of this oversight body is to “promote trauma responsive, culturally informed services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.”

The Juvenile Assessment and Intervention System (JAIS) has determined the needs of the youth committed to the Division of Juvenile Justice between 2015 and 2019, including the facts that:

  • 86% had behavioral health needs including, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and impulse control.
  • 63% had needs related to building and maintaining pro-social relationships, meaning that their peer group was negative, delinquent, and/or abusive.
  • 59% had chronic parental or family problems.
  • 48% had substance use issues that contributed to the youth’s legal difficulties.
  • Only 17% of youth at DJJ had significant criminal orientation, described as criminal behavior being an acceptable and a common part of the youth’s life.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your son or daughter is in legal trouble or faces school expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the expertise to advocate for your loved one’s well-being successfully. For a free consultation, call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.

Client Reviews

I hired attorney Katie Walsh to help my son when he was found with a large amount of drugs on school campus. She got us through the Expulsion Hearing, and miraculously he can go back to school at the winter semester...

AR- parent of minor client

I hired Katie Walsh to have my felony convictions expunged. She was able to expunge my record within 6 weeks of me giving her all the information. Even though technically I had a probation violation, and therefore the...

AR, criminal client

My 16 year old son was charged with possession of Marijuana, HS 11357(b). I was very concerned about what would happen to him and how this would affect his future. I contacted Ms. Walsh and she assured me that everything...

CT, parent of juvenile client

My child was charged with Felony Penal Code 597(a)- Animal Cruelty. After hiring Katie Walsh, she got the charges reduced to a misdemeanor, counseling, and 40 hours of chores at home. We come back in 6 months and the...

DH - Parent of Juvenile client

I hired Katie Walsh to represent my son on sexual abuse allegations- P.C. 288(a) and P.C. 288(b)- they were Strike Charges. After negotiating with the D.A., she got all the strike charges dismissed, and got my son...

DR- mother of juvenile client

Katie Walsh was fantastic throughout this entire process! My 13 year old son was charged with two counts of lewd act on a minor, PC 288(a) and was in juvenile hall. After hiring Ms. Walsh, she GOT MY SON OUT OF JAIL and...

EG, parent of juvenile client

My 14 year old son was arrested at school for P.C. 311 (child pornography). My son had innocent and stupid nude pictures of himself and friends on his phone. Ms. Walsh was extremely easy to talk to, and made my son feel...

GK,TK, parents of juvenile client

Ms. Walsh was a life saver when I didn't know what was going on, or how to handle the situation. My young daughter was attacked at her middle school and was seriously injured. At a time when both the school and the...

HA, mother of 13 year old Victim Rights client

I hired Katie Walsh to seal my juvenile record of PC 288(a) (lewd act on a minor), after my request had been denied by a Judge and by the Probation Department. After speaking with Probation, the DA and the Judge at a...

JW, former juvenile client

I was charged with a Felony Conspiracy charge- PC 182. After hiring Ms. Walsh she got my charged reduced to a misdemeanor right away, and now I just have to do community service and in 6 months my entire case will be...

KP, juvenile client

Ms. Walsh was like a breath of fresh air throughout this entire process. I was uncertain about the outcome, but she told me everything would be ok- and it was. She had my juvenile record sealed within 3 months of...

LR, former juvenile client

Ms. Walsh got the judge to terminate my son's probation and seal his 2 juvenile cases (Penal Code 288(a) and Penal Code 242) even though he had violated my probation by picking up a new case. By getting his record sealed...

MB- mother of juvenile client

At a very difficult time in my life I contacted attorney Katie Walsh. I am a teacher and was being harassed/stalked by a parent at my school. I wanted a Restraining Order against this person. Ms. Walsh listened to me...

MB, restraining order client

My son was charged with Lewd Conduct, P.C. 647 out of Downey, CA. After hiring Ms. Walsh, she spoke with the District Attorney, Probation, and the Judge. Even though the judge was not pleased with the offer, she was able...

MG, parent of minor

It is with sincere gratitude that I send this recommendation As a parent of a child that was arrested on a Felony Domestic Abuse charge and over 2000 miles away I had to rely on friend of a friends word that you would...

MPF, mother of criminal client

I really liked having Ms. Walsh as my attorney. She visited me in Juvenile Hall. I was charged with four counts of Robbery (Penal Code 211). This was my 8th juvenile petition. Ms. Walsh got 2 of the robbery charges...

MU, juvenile client

I was arrested for a felony Domestic charge, PC 273.5(a). After I hired Katie Walsh, my entire case was dismissed. I never had to appear in court. I felt very comfortable with Ms. Walsh- she was easy to speak with...

NF, criminal client

Katie was instrumental in helping me with a criminal matter as an advocate for me and my children when I was a named victim in a DV case. She patiently and expediently addressed all of my questions and was an invaluable...


My daughter was pulled over arrested for having a Fake ID. After hiring Ms. Walsh my daughter did not have to plead guilty- which would have affected her license status. She did community service, completed a legal...


My 14 year old daughter was involved in an assault and battery- PC 240/242, in Irvine. After hiring Katie Walsh the case was not referred to Court. My daughter was able to complete a class and the case will be dismissed...

SG, mother a juvenile client

My son was charged with possession of Child Pornography P.C. 311.11(a) - a charge I did not realize a child could be guilty of! As parents were beside ourselves when we found this out, and contacted Katie Walsh. She...

SH- mother of juvenile client

From San Diego I contacted Ms. Walsh about sealing my juvenile record in Orange County regarding a Petty Theft charge. She was always very responsive to any of my questions, and consistently kept me updated. Even though...

XL, juvenile client

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