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Juvenile Three Strikes Law

The juvenile justice system stresses that consequences should consider the age and possibility of rehabilitation of young offenders. They should acknowledge that they could commit delinquent behaviors. Probation or community service programs can be used to correct behavior for minor offenses. Nevertheless, a child could earn a "strike" on their record for certain offenses. Each of these strikes permanently tarnishes the record of the minor. Depending on the crime the child committed, they could receive two or three strikes, which could lead to disproportionately harsh punishments for further violations, like life in prison.

Securing legal representation is necessary when a minor faces delinquency charges, especially if those charges have the potential for a strike. Knowledgeable juvenile law criminal defense lawyers, like those at Pasadena Criminal Attorney, offer invaluable guidance and representation. Our intervention can significantly impact the charges brought against the minor to your child’s advantage. We also aim to mitigate the long-term ramifications associated with a strike.

An Overview of the Three Strikes Law

Penal Code 667, California's "three strikes" law, aims to punish repeat offenders convicted of violent or serious felonies with harsher punishments. This law dramatically increases the length of prison sentences for those who commit new felonies after committing two or more eligible prior offenses.

The law lists some serious or violent felonies that are eligible for strikes. These include significant charges like:

  • Arson
  • Grand theft over a specific amount and
  • Some drug trafficking crimes

In addition, some of the violent crimes listed under this law include:

  • Murder
  • Assault with a deadly weapon, and
  • Rape

However, not all felonies qualify as strikes.

The three-strikes system operates on a tiered sentencing structure. When a person is convicted of a significant or violent crime for the first time, they are given the standard sentence. No further punishment is applied at this time. This is known as a first-strike offense. However, as more offenses occur, the situation gets worse. A person faces twice the regular sentence for the current offense if they commit a new serious or violent felony after receiving one prior strike.

A third strike triggers more harsh penalties. A criminal facing two or more prior strikes faces a mandatory sentence ranging from 25 years to life in prison for committing a new serious or violent felony.

The three strikes legislation also limits defendants' ability to receive custody credits and lengthens sentences. Usually awarded for good behavior while incarcerated, these credits can cut a prisoner's sentence in half.

However, the three strikes statute significantly alters this benefit for repeat offenders. Before being eligible for release, second strikers must serve at least 80% of their sentence. This starkly contrasts with the usual 50% decrease provided to prisoners not subject to the legislation.

The third striker is even more severely affected. Regardless of his/her excellent behavior while incarcerated, he/she is ineligible for custody credits. This means he/she must serve the whole duration of his/her statutory sentence, typically 25 years to life.

An Overview of the Juvenile Three Strikes Law

While the juvenile system places more emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration, the adult system places more emphasis on punishment and deterrence. These guiding concepts influence their procedures and penalties. The juvenile system provides alternatives like probation and therapy, while the adult system is more formal and has harsher penalties.

However, the two systems have an important connection: Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) 707(b).

Prosecutors in California can file for a fitness hearing for a 16 or 17-year-old minor charged with a serious offense. This hearing establishes whether the minor will face charges as an adult in an adult trial. WIC 707(b) provides the framework that prosecutors rely on. It strengthens the argument for moving the juvenile to adult court if the alleged offense is one of the crimes specified under this law. The reasoning behind this is that crimes falling under WIC 707(b) are usually violent or extremely serious, indicating a possible necessity for the more severe penalties found in the adult system.

For that reason, if a minor under 16 commits a crime, even if it could be considered a strike if the minor were older, a strike would not be added to their juvenile record. The juvenile justice system would be the only one handling their case. It would decide the consequences based on the offense and the juvenile's history.

If your child is found guilty of any of the following crimes under WIC 707(b), your child could have a strike on his/her record:

  • Murder — Penal Code 187
  • Voluntary manslaughter — Penal Code 192(a)
  • Aggravated mayhem — Penal Code 205
  • Torture — Penal Code 206
  • Kidnapping for ransom and bodily harm — Penal Code 209
  • Kidnapping for sexual assault — Penal Code 209(b)
  • Kidnapping during a carjacking — Penal Code 209.5
  • Robbery — Penal Code 211
  • Armed carjacking — Penal Code 215
  • Assault with a gun or destructive weapon — Penal Code 245(a)(2)
  • Assault through force likely to result in great bodily injury — Penal Code 245(a)(4)
  • Discharge of a gun into an occupied or inhabited building — PEN 246
  • Rape — Penal Code 261
  • Sodomy — Penal Code 286(b)
  • Oral copulation — Penal Code 287
  • Engaging in a sex act with a minor — Penal Code 288.7
  • Lewd or lascivious acts — Penal Code 288(b)
  • Arson — Penal Code 451(a) or (b)
  • Attempted murder — Penal Code 664/187
  • Escape from a juvenile facility with violence — Penal Code 4532(b)
  • Offense described in Penal Code 1203.09
  • Manufacturing, selling, or compounding a specific amount of controlled substances — HSC 11055(e)
  • An offense described in Penal Code 12022.5 or 12022.53 — Both addresses using a firearm in a crime.
  • A felony offense where a minor uses a weapon listed in Penal Code 16590
  • Certain crimes involving human trafficking — Penal Code 236.1(a)

Critical Requirements for a Crime a Juvenile Commits to be Considered a Strikeable Offense

The case is transferred to adult court if the offense is considered too serious for the juvenile justice system.

In juvenile court, the prosecution must persuade the judge that the offense is more likely than not true, using what is known as the "preponderance of the evidence" standard. This lower bar prioritizes the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders while expediting the case resolution process.

The adult court, on the other hand, uses a more stringent "beyond a reasonable doubt" threshold. The burden of proof is far more significant on the prosecution, which must show that there is no plausible defense for the defendant's innocence. This higher standard safeguards the accused's rights by guaranteeing a careful review of the evidence before a conviction. This is particularly so in cases with serious repercussions.

Under California's WIC 707(b), a juvenile violation must meet four requirements to be considered a "strike":

  • Age — At the time of the offense, the minor must have been at least 16 but not older than 18.
  • Jurisdiction — The juvenile court system is appropriate for handling this matter. If a 16 or 17-year-old commits a grave crime that could result in their transfer to adult court, it will not count as a strike as long as they stay in juvenile court.
  • Classification of the offense — Per WIC 707(b), the offense must be a violent or serious felony.
  • Court adjudication — In light of the minor's involvement in the felony, the court must declare them to be its ward. The juvenile justice system must administer punishment if the court finds the child at fault.

If all four requirements are satisfied, the juvenile's record will reflect the offense as a strike, which could result in more severe punishments for similar crimes. While juvenile records are usually sealed or erased after a specific time, strikes can make this process more difficult.

Challenging an adult court transfer demands strict adherence to deadlines. After the initial arraignment on the pertinent charges, your child has only 20 days to submit a writ petition. The child risks severely restricting their juvenile court status if they do not act before the deadline.

Are Plea Bargains Available for Juveniles Facing Charges for Strikeable Offenses?

Your child’s defense attorney could start talks with the prosecution about a plea deal. Ideally, the child will ultimately lose the strike designation or receive a reduced sentence in exchange for entering a guilty plea to a lesser offense.

The final decision on whether to accept or reject the plea agreement rests with the prosecutor. The severity of the initial offense, the minor's prior criminal record, and their likelihood of rehabilitation all play a role in their decision. The judge who oversaw the initial admission to juvenile court could also play a part. He/she could give the final approval of the negotiated deal.

Plea bargaining has a lot of advantages. A successful agreement could result in reduced charges, thereby averting the grave consequences of a strike. Your child may be offered probation in lieu of incarceration or a shorter sentence.

Potential Impact of a Strike on a Juvenile’s Record

A juvenile strike has severe consequences for the future of the young offender. The most immediate outcome is the potential for incarceration in the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). This facility is the state's closest counterpart to a juvenile prison. It houses serious offenders under its care.

A strike, however, could have consequences beyond the original crime. California's three strikes law applies to adult and juvenile offenders. If a minor commits another violation as an adult that counts as a strike under WIC 707(b), that strike can significantly enhance the potential jail sentence.

An expunged or sealed juvenile record does not always mean that a strike will not cause problems for background checks. The juvenile could face challenges while seeking work, housing, or educational options. Furthermore, the psychological toll of having a strike designation can deter a young person from pursuing a constructive course of action.

It is important to remember that each strike has unique repercussions, depending on the circumstances. When deciding on an appropriate punishment, the court considers:

  • The seriousness of the initial offense
  • The minor's age and
  • Their criminal history

A skilled juvenile defense lawyer can be quite helpful in lessening the effects of a possible strike. He/she can look at alternatives like plea negotiations or diversionary programs to avoid a strike designation. Given the facts of the case, they can also fight for the most advantageous sentences.

Note: Los Angeles prosecutors only bring juvenile strike charges against children aged 16 or 17 if the allegations relate to murder or forcible rape.

Financial Penalties

Juvenile strike charges could result in court-ordered monitoring or rehabilitation programs for your child and substantial financial ramifications for you as parents. The pressure of paying court fees, victim restitution, and fines can build up quickly. Even while the court usually orders your child to repay these debts, you may also find yourself in charge of doing so.

These state-enacted "parental responsibility laws" impose this obligation on parents. These regulations make you financially liable for your child's misbehavior, which motivates you to keep a closer eye on and better control your child's behavior. They hope to encourage a proactive strategy for reducing future violations by splitting the cost.

Consequently, to obtain the funds required to pay back the debts, the court may order your child to perform a part-time job or engage in other programs. However, the court may also consider your circumstances and order you to either set up a payment plan or pay the entire fine. In other situations, the court may sometimes even garnish your wages to ensure the debt is paid.

There are subtleties to take into account. Certain states could limit your financial responsibilities as a parent, depending on your child's age. In the case of older teens, the court could also give weight to your child's ability to work and pay back the debt on their own. Furthermore, if you are experiencing financial hardship, the court may look into other agreements or lower the amount you must pay.

Expunging and Sealing a Juvenile Strike Record

In California, dealing with juvenile strike records poses a unique challenge. Expungement, which completely removes a record, is generally not an option for these offenses. Record sealing becomes the go-to alternative.

Expungement removes all traces of the record, making it completely erased. On the other hand, record sealing limits who can access the record. Technically speaking, the record is still in existence, but most businesses and educational institutions are not aware of it. Essentially, it is regarded as though it never existed.

Juvenile record sealing is permissible under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 781. As a result, your child gets a vital second chance, lessening the long-term effects of the strike transgression. However, eligibility for sealing is contingent upon specific requirements.

Your child must be over 18 and have finished their probationary period, or over 21 and have undergone supervision by the Division of Juvenile Justice. However, there are exceptions. Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707 may not allow sealing for particularly serious offenses, including those considered strikeable offenses. An attorney can confirm if the specific strike offense in your child's case falls under these exceptions.

Speak with a lawyer specializing in juvenile defense due to the complexity of juvenile law. Based on the specifics of the offense and your child's age, they can determine if your child qualifies for record sealing. Before seeking sealing, they can look at other options, like dismissing the strike or lowering it to a misdemeanor if sealing is not an option.

Advantages of a Case Being Handled in Juvenile Court

There are many benefits to cases remaining in the juvenile court system instead of being transferred to adult court. Some include:

  1. The Court’s Focus on Rehabilitation

Rehabilitating young offenders is a top priority for juvenile courts. The sentencing alternatives aim to teach your child constructive skills and behaviors while addressing the underlying causes of delinquent behavior. Probation, counseling, or educational measures to deter future violations may be part of this. Adult courts, on the other hand, frequently impose harsher penalties, like incarceration, which could not effectively foster positive transformation.

  1. Leniency in Sentencing

Your child could receive a lighter sentence from juvenile courts. Juvenile courts often impose penalties that are less harsh than those in adult courts. This could entail probation rather than jail time, shorter terms in juvenile detention facilities, or involvement in restorative justice initiatives that aim to mend the harm the offense caused.

  1. Emphasis on Development

Adolescents are subject to continuing development, which the juvenile justice system acknowledges. Informed by brain science, the court's approach is understanding and measured. They will consider the unique circumstances of each child.

  1. d. Decreased Stigma

Juvenile court adjudication shields your child from the long-term stigma associated with a criminal record. The hearings of juvenile courts are private, and the results are not disclosed. This helps your child reintegrate into society more smoothly following rehabilitation by protecting their privacy and future chances.

  1. Confidentiality

Maintaining your child's privacy is of utmost importance throughout juvenile court procedures. Case specifics are usually kept confidential to protect your child's and your family's privacy. This fosters a nurturing atmosphere that is ideal for recovery.

Advantages of a Case Being Handled in Adult Court

Although transferring a juvenile strike case to adult court can seem like a bad idea, an experienced lawyer can use the adult courts' tactical advantages to protect your child. Some of the benefits of the adult proceedings are:

  1. Possibility of a Plea Agreement

Adult courts permit plea agreements. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecution could propose a reduced sentence, which could mean serving less time than a strike law's mandatory minimum penalty.

  1. Right to a Jury Trial

In adult court, your child has the right to a jury trial. Sometimes, juries are more understanding of young defendants than judges are. This could result in a more favorable verdict for your child.

  1. Variety of punishment Options

Although adult court is often harsher, more punishment options are available. This could include programs that incorporate rehabilitation and education alongside punishment. Thus potentially providing a more well-rounded approach.

Can a Juvenile Access Deferred Entry of Judgement for Juvenile Strike Charges?

Some teenagers facing the repercussions of non-violent actions could find solace in Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ). DEJ offers a chance to avoid having a permanent criminal record.

The juvenile admits to the offense, but the adjudication or judgment is deferred in a DEJ program. The offense must be non-violent and not classified as serious under the state's Welfare and Institutions Code (typically WIC 707(b)). Only then is a juvenile eligible for a DEJ.

The court sets specific rules for a predetermined amount of time. These requirements could include:

  • Community service
  • Going through counseling
  • Paying back victims or
  • Maintaining good behavior

The juvenile's record will not reflect a formal conviction if they complete the DEJ program and probation.

Therefore, Deferred Entry of Judgment is not accessible in cases of juvenile strikes. Significant crimes require minimum penalties and far harsher treatment from the legal system. Juvenile strikes concentrate on possible rehabilitation inside the juvenile justice system or, in certain situations, transfer to adult court.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

The Juvenile Three Strikes Law makes it more challenging to balance the juvenile justice system's capacity for rehabilitation and public safety. The goal of the law is to discourage significant acts, yet it can have profound and enduring effects on juvenile offenders.

Parents in Pasadena should put their child's legal rights and options front and center when their child is in a position like this. Knowledgeable juvenile defense lawyers at Pasadena Criminal Attorney can offer priceless advice on navigating this complicated judicial system. Our knowledge can be beneficial in defending your child's rights and possibly lessening the adverse effects of a strike on their future. You must take immediate action since hiring a capable attorney early on can greatly impact your child's case. Call us at 626-689-2277 for further assistance.

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