Juveniles Tried as Adults for Sex Crimes in California
When Are Juveniles Tried As Adults For Sexual Offenses In California?
A child under the age of 14 cannot be prosecuted in California as an adult. However, children as young as 14 may be tried in California in adult criminal court through any one of the following mechanisms:
1. After the prosecutor files a “fitness” petition in juvenile court and a hearing is held at which the juvenile court judge finds your child unfit for rehabilitation in the juvenile system based on five “fitness” criteria:
- The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by your child;
- Whether your child can be rehabilitated before juvenile court jurisdiction expires;
- Your child’s previous delinquent history;
- The success of previous attempts by juvenile court to rehabilitate your child; and
- The circumstances and gravity of the offenses alleged to have been committed by your child.
2. Direct file in adult criminal court at the discretion of the prosecutor.
3. Automatic trial as an adult for a small number of aggravated offenses at age 14 or older with a prior offense.
4. Automatic trial as an adult on the following types of sex crimes:
- Rape as described in Section 261(2)(a) of the Penal Code;
- Spousal rape, as described in Section 262(a) of the Penal Code;
- Forcible sex offenses in concert with another (PC 264.1);
- Forcible lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14 years of age as described in Section 288(b) of the Penal Code;
- Sexual penetration as described in Section 289(a) of the Penal Code;
- Sodomy or oral copulation by force (PC 286; PC 288a);
- Lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14 (PC288).
Juveniles tried as adults must be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Every element of the crime must be satisfied in order to convict your child. Because the consequences of a conviction can be so severe, if your child is facing being tried as an adult for a sex crime, it is highly recommended that you hire a California criminal defense attorney who specializes in sex crime defense. Children convicted of sex crimes can face the same consequences as adults, resulting in a lifetime of difficulty for your child and your family.
Differences Between Juvenile Court Vs. Adult Court
Juvenile court is not part of the California criminal law system. It is part of the civil law system where cases are “adjudicated,” as found in the California Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) section 602. Juvenile court proceedings are also referred to as “602 proceedings” after the applicable section of California law that governs juvenile proceedings.
Judges, Commissioners or Referees may hear cases in juvenile court. There are prosecutors and defense attorneys, but no juries. Minors in the juvenile court system have no right to a jury trial. A judge alone makes the final determination in a juvenile court proceeding. Juvenile court proceedings are usually confidential in nature and conducted in closed court rooms.
The judge does not find a minor “guilty” or “not guilty” in the California Juvenile Court system. If the judge finds that the minor committed the crime alleged beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge “sustains the petition” filed by the district attorney. A minor that is brought before the court at the initial detention hearing can either “admit” or “deny” the allegations. They do not plead guilty or not guilty as in adult court.
There are many different sentences available in juvenile court. At the low end of the spectrum is 725WIC or 654WIC consideration. Depending on the whether the petition is charging the minor with a misdemeanor or a felony, the court can allow a “deferred entry of judgment” (DEJ). This procedure allows the minor to admit the offense, but is not sentenced to juvenile hall or other custody time.
For more information regarding juvenile justice, please visit our section on Juvenile Law.
How Can Wallin & Klarich Defend A Juvenile Accused Of A Sex Offense?
Defending a minor on a sex crime is similar to defending adults. It is critical to conduct a thorough and complete investigation of the case, interview all witnesses and prepare a defense for trial. Defending a juvenile case varies from that of an adult case in a number of ways:
1. Getting a psychological evaluation by an expert to say that the minor does not fit the sexual profile to commit the crime and thus the allegations are not true; and
2. A minor has no right to a jury trial in juvenile court cases, but only to a bench or Court trial; and
3. If the minor qualifies to be charged as an adult and the District Attorney decides to charge the minor as an adult, that minor is entitled to a jury trial.
A minor charged with a sex crime is far better off staying in Juvenile Court then being tried as an adult. While adults may enjoy more rights in court, they are also subject to much greater punishment if convicted. Adjudication in the juvenile court system is a far better alternative to a criminal conviction in adult court. Talk to your attorney about how best to protect your child’s future.
Sentencing And Punishment For Juvenile Sex Offenses In California
In some instances the penalties for a juvenile sex offense may be the same as an adult who is convicted of a violent sex crime such as rape. Penalties may include:
- Fines and fees; and/or
- Formal probation up to five years. If your child is placed on formal probation, he or she will be required to report frequently to a probation officer and comply with strict conditions or face a violation of probation and possible custody time; and/or
- Custody in county jail or state prison. Counties may place a juvenile in a Juvenile Detention Center (commonly known as “Juvenile Hall”). The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) operates and administers prison facilities designed for juveniles under 18 years old. Once reaching the age of 18, a minor may be transferred to a regular state prison;
- Mandatory lifetime sex offender registration pursuant to PC 290;
- Public notification on the California Megan’s Law Website. Your child’s picture and home address may be posted for the public to view. This often results in harassment by your child’s peers and difficulty obtaining educational, employment and eventually housing opportunities.
Juveniles tried as adults may not receive the death penalty, but may be subjected to Life without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP). Youth serving an LWOP sentence must serve the rest of their life in prison for crimes committed when they were 14 to 17 years of age. No country other than the United States permits LWOP sentences for juveniles.
Many times the penalties are so harsh due to the fact that these behaviors often progress into adulthood and there is a good chance that the accused may be re-arrested for a felony sex crime sometime after they turn 18.
Let Our Attorneys Experienced In Juvenile Sex Crimes Help You Today
If your child has been accused of an unlawful sexual offense, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of specialized experience successfully representing our juvenile clients charged with a sex crime.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, and Victorville, the knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been able to help minors to successfully defend against serious criminal charges such as registerable sex offenses.
We may be able to challenge all the evidence against your child and help you win your case. Or, we may be able to negotiate for alternative sentencing, probation and/or counseling, allowing him or her to avoid both commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice and lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Call us today at (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.