At the end of September, Jerry Brown signed into law new changes to the California juvenile court system that will dramatically change the way things work. These modifications take effect at the start of 2019 and here’s what a San Diego juvenile lawyer believes you should know about the new laws.
Minimum Age Limits
Perhaps the biggest change to the current system is that now no one under 12 can be prosecuted in juvenile criminal court except in rape and murder cases. In cases that don’t involve rape or murder, juveniles will be sent to either counseling or juvenile dependency court, meaning they could be sent to live somewhere other than their parent’s home. San Diego juvenile attorneys argue that this is because children under 12 have a very limited understanding of the consequences of their actions and their parents have a strong influence on what they do and how they act. To a large extent, parents have the responsibility of disciplining their children at this age and if they fail to do so, the child might be better off somewhere else.
Age to be Tried as an Adult
Previously, juveniles aged 14 or over could be tried as an adult. The new law changes this minimum age to 16, which means that if your child is 14 or 15 and charged with a serious offense, you will no longer need to worry about whether or not your San Diego juvenile attorney will be able to win the transfer hearing where the court determines if the child should be charged in adult court or juvenile court. As you may imagine, juvenile courts have less severe punishments as the focus of these courts is on rehabilitation and not punishment. In fact in juvenile court, those under 16 cannot be incarcerated past the age of 21 and those under 18 cannot be incarcerated beyond the age of 25.
Those over 16 can still be tried in an adult court when they have violated a serious offense, such as rape, murder, arson or kidnapping. If someone over 16 is tried in adult court, they will still be held in a juvenile facility until they are 18.
Starting last year, prosecutors were no longer able to directly file juvenile cases in adult court for serious offenses. All cases must be filed in juvenile court first with a transfer hearing in which the prosecution must justify a transfer to adult court. The juvenile’s lawyer can call experts to show a juvenile court resolution is in the best interests of society and the minor.
If you have a child who committed a crime and want to know how these changes to the law may affect his or her case, San Diego juvenile defense lawyer Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free consultation.