How Does California’s Proposed Proposition 57 Impact Juvenile Court Proceedings?
In addition to the presidential election in November, California voters will be asked to weigh in on Proposition 57, “Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements.” According to an L.A. Times report, Governor Jerry Brown is encouraging residents to vote “YES” on the measure, which would allow judges – not prosecuting attorneys – to decide whether to try certain juvenile as adults in criminal courts. If passed, Proposition 57 will change California criminal law, but parents and offenders should be aware of existing regulations on the court process when juveniles are involved.
Juvenile Court Proceedings in California
The state juvenile court system was established solely to address and adjudicate felony and misdemeanor charges against people under the age of 18. The proceedings are similar to adult court in the sense that there are judges, prosecuting attorneys, and defense lawyers; however, there are no juries and the process is usually confidential.
Treatment of Offenders in Juvenile Court
Offenders age 18 and younger are typically tried in juvenile court, but there are circumstances where a case may be sent to adult criminal court.
· Certain Cases MUST Be Tried in Adult Court: A person aged 14 years or older will be tried in adult court if the crimes are particularly serious, including murder, violent sex offenses, and arson that results in the death or serious bodily injury to another person.
· Cases that MAY Be Tried in Adult Court: Another category of offenses gives prosecuting attorneys the discretion on whether to try a juvenile offender as an adult. This is the specific area that Proposition 57 would change, so that judges make the decision of whether to send the case to adult court. Still, the current law in California is that prosecutors can “direct file” cases to adult court depending on the age of the offender and charges he or she is facing:
·Offenders Age 16 or Older: A prosecutor can direct file a case if the minor:
·Commits a serious offense, such as lesser murder crimes, arson, battery, robbery, or violent sex crimes;
·Has a prior history of felony after age 14 AND
·The new crime involves an elderly or disabled victim;
·The new felony is a hate crime; OR,
·The new felony is gang-related.
·Offenders Age 14 or Older: A prosecutor can opt for direct filing if the minor:
·Commits an offense that would be punishable by death or life in prison, if committed by an adult;
·Uses a firearm during the commission of a felony;
·Commits certain violent, serious crimes;
·Has previously committed a felony crime; OR,
·The new crime was gang-related, a hate crime, or committed against a victim who was elderly or disabled.
Unless and until California votes in favor of Proposition 57, prosecuting attorneys still have a certain amount of control over juvenile court proceedings. Therefore, it’s critical for parents and offenders to consult with a lawyer that has an extensive background and experience in San Diego criminal defense. If you or a loved one is facing charges in juvenile court, please contact a qualified criminal attorney in San Diego who can help you work through the proceedings in California and obtain the best possible outcome.
Early Parole Under Prop 57
Another concern that a lot of people are having when considering how to vote on prop 57 is the idea of people being let out early. Rest assured though, it is not letting out everyone of prison early, it is more of a situational release. Under this proposition, if certain non-violent offenders have done a certain amount of time already in jail or prison then that means that they could be eligible to be released early into a supervised parole type setting.
California has one of the largest prison populations per capita in the world and the federal government has been putting pressure on California to get the prison populations down. In certain jails, for example in Los Angeles, the beds in modules are literally back to back with hundreds of people in one area with barley anywhere to move.
San Diego Cases Under Prop 57
If you have a loved one in custody in the county of San Diego, prop 57 could give them an opportunity for early release. However, what we want to be clear about is that the system will correct itself and they will find the right people to release. Remember, this has to be a non-violent crime where there is no violent history of crimes and then they can be eligible.
Ozols Law Firm
8880 Rio San Diego Dr. #22
San Diego, CA