In recent a California criminal case before a court of appeals, the court had to consider whether a minor defendant’s case was properly heard by an adult criminal court or whether the case should have been decided by a juvenile court. The defendant in the case was charged with sexual offenses that allegedly occurred when he was between 14 and 16 years old.
According to the court’s opinion, the defendant’s case was first heard in juvenile court, but in November, 2015, the juvenile court transferred the case to adult criminal court. While in adult court, the defendant pleaded guilty to various crimes in March 2017, and agreed to a 40-year sentence in prison. However, before the defendant was sentenced, the defendant requested that the court transfer his case back to juvenile court under Proposition 57, which was passed after the defendant’s hearing in juvenile court. The adult court denied the request, and the defendant appealed the court’s decision.
Juvenile courts in California generally have jurisdiction over offenses alleged to have been committed when the defendant was under 18 years old. Proposition 57 was passed in November, 2016, and significantly amended the laws governing the jurisdiction of juvenile courts. Under the previous law, a minor accused of a crime was generally subject to the jurisdiction of juvenile court, unless the court found the minor unfit for juvenile court. For minors 14 years or older, there was a presumption that the defendant was unfit for the juvenile court system.
Under Proposition 57, there is no such presumption. In addition, to transfer a juvenile case to adult court, the prosecutor must file a motion requesting the transfer. The juvenile court must then conduct a “transfer hearing” to decide if the case should remain in juvenile court or if it should be transferred to adult court. The court must consider several factors in considering whether to transfer a case, but the court has broad discretion in weighing those factors.
In this case, the court of appeals decided that the defendant’s case should have been transferred back to juvenile court. The California Supreme Court previously decided that Proposition 57 had to be applied to any case in which the sentence was not yet final when it was enacted. In this case, the defendant’s sentence was not yet final when he requested the transfer back to juvenile court. Therefore, the court should have transferred the case back to juvenile court to hold a transfer hearing.
In addition, Senate Bill No. 1391 went into effect on January 1, 2019, also amending the jurisdiction of juvenile and adult courts. Under this Bill, individuals who were under 16 when they allegedly committed a criminal violation can never be transferred to adult court. Because some of the counts for which the defendant was convicted occurred before he was 16, the court vacated those convictions.
Call a California Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or your family member needs representation in an upcoming criminal matter, call a California criminal defense attorney today. Attorney John W. Noonan represents individuals in California juvenile offenses as well as adult proceedings from his offices in Dublin and Manteca. As a former district attorney and pro-tem judge, Attorney Noonan has over 55 years of experience and can provide you with the vigorous defense that you deserve. He practices solely criminal defense and regularly communicates with each of his clients personally. Call us at (925) 807-7077 or contact us online at any time of the day.