September 30, 2007 By Wallin & Klarich

The California Court of Appeal recently ruled in People v. Vincent Tu, that a prior juvenile adjudication could be used to enhance an adult offender’s sentence.

Tu plead guilty to, among other things, voluntary manslaughter. On the manslaughter charge, the court sentenced Tu to an upper 11 year term. In sentencing Tu, the trial court relied on several factors in support of the upper term including the fact that “. . . appellant had prior sustained petitions in juvenile court.” Tu appealed, asserting that the trial court improperly imposed upper terms and consecutive sentences based on facts not found by the jury.

After a lengthy summary of relevant United States Supreme Court cases, the California Appeals court discussed California case law on prior juvenile adjudications and stated that “Historically, California courts have condoned as constitutional the use of juvenile adjudications as prior convictions under the three strikes law.” Although there were concerns about reliability in juvenile adjudications, particularly because such adjudications occur without a jury trial, the court noted that many procedural safeguards (proof beyond a reasonable doubt support by evidence, protection against double jeopardy, etc) ensure that these adjudications are reliable. As such, the court determined that juvenile adjudications can serve as sentence enhancers in an adult offender’s sentence.

This underscores the importance of hiring experienced, aggressive attorneys if you or someone you know is accused of a juvenile crime. Hiring the wrong attorney could lead to a conviction that could come back to haunt you in the future. Call 1-888-280-6839 today to speak with an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney.

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