July 10, 2007 By Wallin & Klarich

Prosecutors in Orange County charge more YOUTHS AS ADULTS using their discretionary power than those in any other county (according to the most recent data provided by the California attorney general-157 between 2003 and 2005).

When compared proportionally to felony juvenile arrests, Orange County stands out even more: It has the highest proportional use of the “direct file” law among the state’s 15 largest counties. Orange County prosecuted teens as adults nine times as often as Los Angeles.

Before Proposition 21 when California minors could first be sent to adult court, they had to go through a fitness hearing in juvenile court. A judge would take into account their criminal sophistication, delinquent history, and likelihood of rehabilitation.

Prop. 21 made California one of 15 states that allow prosecutors to make that decision on their own in cases involving charges of murder, sexual assault, robbery, and gang crimes.

Jesus Green, a 15-year-old was convicted in 2001 for kidnapping and gang rape and was sentenced to 91 years to life in prison. However, police have also charged as adults at least 30 youths who were NOT the people who physically committed the crimes. In addition, more juveniles accused of robbery are being charged as adults. There were 24 robbery cases filed in adult court in 2006, compared with just one in 2000.

Orange County prosecutors are stepping up their DIRECT FILE efforts overall. Court files show that last year there were 85 such cases (compared with 41 in 2005).

Interestingly, Fresno, San Francisco, and Imperial counties did not use the direct file provision at all between 2003 and 2005.

In sum, a racial/ethnic breakdown of Proposition 21 and application of direct file cases in California may help shed light on this: 9.6% white; 33.8% black; 50.1% Hispanic.

All juveniles accused of series crimes need to hire Wallin & Klarich to protect against the uneven application and impact of Prop 21 and to avoid being tried as an adult.

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