Proposition 57 was enacted by California voters in November, 2016. The proposition eliminated the ability of a district attorney to file charges directly with a California criminal court for minors who were 14 years or older when they allegedly committed the crimes. Senate Bill 1391 (SB 1391), which was passed in 2018, further limits a district attorney’s ability to prosecute minors in criminal court.
In a recent case, after the Superior Court of Solano County blocked the prosecution of a 14-year-old defendant in criminal court, the District Attorney of Solano County filed suit against the court, arguing that SB 1391 was inconsistent with the intent of Proposition 57. Generally, in California, juvenile courts have jurisdiction over offenses allegedly committed by minors. However, prior to Proposition 57, there was a presumption that minors 14 years or older were unfit for the juvenile justice system, and were required to be charged in criminal court for certain crimes. District attorneys had the discretion to charge minors 14 or older directly in criminal court for other cases.
Under Proposition 57, minors can only be tried in criminal court if a juvenile court judge conducts a transfer hearing, considering various factors. District attorneys can request transfers to the criminal court for minors 16 years or older facing any felony offense, but district attorneys can only request transfers for 14 and 15 year olds for certain violent offenses. Proposition 57 was passed in order to concentrate resources on dangerous criminals, “while rehabilitating juvenile and adult inmates and saving tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.”