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California Supreme Court upholds ban on charging minors under 16 as adults

Posted by Eric D. Anderson | Mar 02, 2021

On February 25, 2021, in O.G. v Superior Court, S259011 the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously to uphold a state law barring 14-and 15-year-olds from being tried as adults and being sent to adult prisons. (You can see the holding here.)  SB 1391, was passed in 2018 but was challenged by the First District Court of Appeal, which ruled the law unconstitutional for being an improper amendment to Prop 57. The passage of Proposition 57 initiated changes that increased the number of people who would receive rehabilitative services. For juveniles, it removed the power of prosecutors to file cases against juveniles directly to adult court. It also amended the judicial transfer process, allowing more children to fall under the rehabilitative juvenile system's jurisdiction.  Proposition 57 also provided for future amendments that are “consistent with and further the intent” of the initiative.

Now that the California Supreme Court has held SB 1391 constitutional, 16 years of age is the minimum age to transfer an accused minor to criminal court. This age limit is not new to the state. From 1961 to 1994, California law prohibited minors under 16 years old from being sent to adult criminal court. This means the ruling will save juveniles from the much harsher penalties seen in adult criminal court. Generally, minors convicted in juvenile courts can be incarcerated only until they reach 25 years of age. An exception exists that allows prosecutors to ask judges to hold convicted offenders longer if the offender's release would be a danger to public safety. Further, offenders who were 14- or 15-year-old minors when they were previously convicted as adults can now contend they are entitled to new trials in juvenile court.

This holding supports the redeemability of all children. It opens the door to appeals for convicted juveniles and more opportunities for accused minors. The criminal justice system can be complicated. If your child needs help dealing with the juvenile court system, do not hesitate to contact a knowledgeable attorney who can advocate for you. 

About the Author

Eric D. Anderson

Eric Anderson: Civil Trial lawyer, Criminal Defense Lawyer, Sin Lawyer

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