In California, minors as young as 14 can be subjected to the adult criminal justice system if they are charged with certain crimes. That means a 14-year-old child could be sentenced to life in prison. However, a new proposed law would raise the minimum age for being tried as an adult.
Raising the Age Limit for Being Tried as an Adult (SB 1391)
Senate Bill 1391 would require that all 14- and 15-year-olds charged with crimes be tried in the juvenile justice system. That means no minor younger than 16 years old could be tried as an adult, even if he or she were charged with murder.
So, why raise the age where minors could be tried as an adult now?
The authors of the bill point to studies that young people have a diminished capacity to judge right and wrong, especially when compared to adults. Youth offenders are also easier influenced by adults, or are more likely to have learning disabilities or mental health disorders.
According to data from the past 10 years provided by the bill’s author, 50 percent of Latino and 60 percent of black juvenile offenders were sent to adult prison. This is a stark contrast to the 10 percent of white juvenile offenders sent to adult prison.
The Push for Juvenile Justice Reform
A push toward rehabilitating youth offenders rather than punishing them and a better understanding of how the minds of young persons work has led to the passing of several laws similar to SB 1391.
Senate Bill 260, called the Justice for Juveniles with Adult Prison Sentences Act, took effect in 2014. This law requires parole boards to review cases of individuals who were incarcerated when they were under the age of 18. In 2016, Prop 57 was passed by California voters. This change in law made it so judges could determine whether a juvenile should be prosecuted in adult court rather than prosecutors.
SB 1391 has already passed on the Senate floor, and the Assembly Appropriations Committee has already heard the bill and further amended it. Its fate currently lies in the Assembly, but because it was amended rather than rejected, SB 1391 has a good chance to get to California Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for final approval.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are a minor accused of a crime, you should contact the skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled juvenile defense lawyers have more than 35 years of experience successfully representing minors facing criminal charges in both adult and juvenile courts. Let us help you now.
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.
Call our office today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.