Defendant Jesus Lizarraga (“Lizarraga”) was 17 years old when he shot and killed a member of a rival gang. In 2014, Lizarraga was tried as an adult and was convicted of second degree murder. Lizarraga was sentenced to serve 40 years to life in state prison. Lizarraga appealed, but the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The judgment therefore became final in March of 2016, eight months prior to the passage of the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 (or “Proposition 57”).
Nearly two years after the trial court’s judgment was affirmed, Lizarraga filed a petition for a Franklin hearing, which was granted. (See People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261, provided that juvenile offenders are entitled to an opportunity to present into the record, evidence of his or her personal characteristics at the time of the offense for consideration at a future youth offender parole hearing.) Lizarraga then sought to transfer the hearing to juvenile court, citing Proposition 57. The court denied Lizarraga’s motion, finding that: (1) Proposition 57 does not apply where a final judgment has been rendered; (2) a final judgment was entered in Lizarraga’s case in 2016 upon the appellate court’s affirming the trial court judgment; and (3) the Franklin hearing did not constitute a resentencing or otherwise an undoing of the finality of that judgment.
What is Proposition 57?
Proposition 57 was passed as a ballot measure by the people of California in November of 2016. Proposition 57 changed the way juveniles could be charged – and tried – for crimes. With very few exceptions, under Proposition 57, a juvenile is to be charged in juvenile court rather than the adult court, and the juvenile court determines whether the individual, upon consideration of the totality of circumstances during a ‘transfer hearing,’ should be prosecuted as an adult or a juvenile. If the juvenile court finds that the juvenile may be tried as an adult, then the case is transferred to the adult court. Prior to passage of Proposition 57, prosecutors were able to charge and prosecute a juvenile defendant directly as an adult.
When Does Proposition 57 Apply?
Proposition 57 applies in criminal cases where:
- the defendant was a juvenile at the time of the alleged offense and
- there is no final judgment in the case.
The Lizarraga court looked to precedent stating that judgment is not final “until the time for petitioning for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court has passed.” (People v. Vieira (2005) 35 Cal.4th 264, 306; See also In re Pine (1977) 66 Cal.App.3d 593, 595). For Lizarraga, that meant the finality of the court’s judgment in his case was solidified in June of 2016 – prior to Proposition 57 passing. Thus, Proposition 57 was not applicable.
However, the California Supreme Court held in Lara that Proposition 57 “applies to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment was not final at the time it was enacted.” People v. Superior Court (Lara) (2018) 4 Cal.5th at p. 304. This means that even if the alleged criminal act occurred prior to Proposition 57’s passage, it may nevertheless apply to a juvenile case which originated in the adult criminal courts, so long as there has not been a final judgment in the case. Where there is an order for resentencing, the finality of any prior judgment may be undone, opening the door for a retroactive application of Proposition 57 at that point.
How the Experienced Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Can Help in Juvenile Crime Cases:
At Wallin & Klarich, we understand that the prospect of a juvenile potentially being tried as an adult can create anxiety and stress to the juvenile and the family, which is why our experienced attorneys are trained to handle juvenile cases with professionalism and heart. Our attorneys will fight for your rights and to keep your case in juvenile court, by providing the legal representation you deserve.
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With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available near you no matter where you are located.
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