June 23, 2022 By Wallin & Klarich

What Is Proposition 57? 

In November of 2016, California voters passed Proposition 57, changing the way that juveniles could be charged for crimes. Prop 57 was part of an effort to reform the state’s criminal justice system, highlighting more lenient treatment for children. For juveniles, this meant that prosecutors could no longer directly determine whether to prosecute a juvenile in adult court. Rather, juveniles are charged in juvenile court, and the juvenile court then decides whether the defendant should be tried as an adult. If the juvenile court finds that the juvenile may be tried as an adult, then the case is transferred to an adult court. 

Prop 57 applies in criminal cases where the defendant was a juvenile at the time of the alleged offense and there was no final judgment in the case. The California Supreme Court also held that Prop 57 applies retroactively to court cases that were in process before the ballot passed. This means that even if the alleged crime occurred before the passage of Prop 57, it may still apply to a juvenile case that originated in an adult court, as long as there hasn’t been a final judgment in the case. If there is an order for resentencing, the case also becomes non-final, so Prop 57 can apply retroactively.

People v. Padilla: Prop 57 During Resentencing 

In the case of People v. Padilla, 16-year-old Padilla was arrested for stabbing his mother to death and conspiring to kill his stepfather. At his hearing, he was deemed unfit for juvenile court and was therefore convicted in adult criminal court, sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Padilla was originally sentenced before Proposition 57 was enacted, but his sentence was later vacated on habeas corpus, a writ used to determine if a state’s detention of a prisoner is valid. The case was returned to the trial court for resentencing. 

The issue for the California Supreme Court was whether Prop 57 applied to the defendant’s resentencing. Now 40 years old, Padilla will get a new hearing to determine whether he should have been tried in juvenile court in the first place. With a 4-3 split, the court ruled that Prop 57 did apply to Padilla’s resentencing because the judgment in his case became non-final when his sentence was vacated on habeas corpus. Additionally, the court reasoned that it didn’t matter that the case became non-final because the sentence was vacated rather than because the initial review of the sentence had not been concluded. On the other hand, the dissent argued that this ruling would allow the finality of a case to be toggled on and off again at will. 

In short, Prop 57, a measure that amended the law by requiring hearings to determine whether offenses can be prosecuted in adult court, applies during resentencing where the sentence imposed on a juvenile offender was issued before the initiative’s passage but was since vacated. This heightened standard for trying juveniles as adults is part of an effort to reform the state’s criminal justice system, emphasizing rehabilitation rather than incarceration and punishment. For juveniles, especially children of color who are disproportionately tried in adult courts, this can make a world of difference. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

Being tried as an adult can lead to dramatically different and harsher consequences for a juvenile. If you or your child has been charged with a crime, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help you keep your case in juvenile court. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is the greatest choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of cases, and we have the skills and resources to secure the best outcome for you

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

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