People below 18 are considered too young to understand the consequences of their actions. When a minor breaks the law, the case is heard and determined by the juvenile justice system and not a criminal justice system. Juvenile courts in the state are geared towards rehabilitation rather than punishment. The law holds that minors deserve another chance in life and are given time to rectify their behavior.
There are instances when a juvenile conviction can impact an adult’s sentencing through the state’s Three-Strike Law. It could happen if your child commits a serious or violent felony at the age of sixteen or seventeen. Engaging the services of an experienced attorney can ensure your child receives the best legal representation in court. For the best criminal defense services in Van Nuys, contact us at Leah Legal.
Understanding California Three Strike Law
The Three Strike law is a California sentencing scheme that provides a maximum sentence of twenty-five years to life to offenders sentenced to three serious or violent felonies. This law, which is provided under California Penal Code Section 667, ensures that serious felonies in the state receive a harsher prison sentence. The sentence increases with every consecutive serious felony. If you commit a serious or violent felony and are convicted, the conviction will affect any subsequent felony sentence you’ll ever receive.
For instance, if you have a previous violent/serious felony conviction in your record, the subsequent felony conviction will be punished by twice the term provided as punishment by the law. On the other hand, if you have two prior convictions for a serious or violent felony, the third conviction will be punished by twenty-five years to life imprisonment.
Examples: Years ago, Paul was convicted for robbery alongside three of his friends. Currently, he’s facing an extortion charge, which is also listed as a serious offense in California. Because of the previous robbery conviction, Paul is now considered a second striker. It means that if he is convicted for extortion, Paul is likely to receive twice the normal sentence for extortion under the state’s Three-Strike Law.
If Paul is charged with a third serious felony several years later, he will be considered a 3rd striker and could be punished to twenty-five years-life in prison.
California Three Strike Law aims at giving felony defendants harsher and longer prison terms if they have any prior felony convictions in their criminal record.
Under this law, third strikers are defendants who have two previous convictions for serious or violent felonies and are currently facing charges for a crime of the same magnitude. If you have two prior convictions for a violent/serious felony, but the current felony charge is not of the same magnitude, the punishment for your third strike will be double the sentence provided by the law for that offense.
On top of longer prison terms, strikers also receive low custody credits in their consecutive sentences. In California, credits are earned by all prison inmates for the time served behind bars with good conduct. Credits could earn the defendant an earlier release from incarceration after serving at least half of their sentence. However, California’s three-strikes law eliminates this privilege.
Second and third strikers must complete at least 80% of their prison sentence before being considered for an earlier release, even when they portray good behavior throughout their time. Those convicted of violent felonies must at least serve 85% of their prison time.
Lastly, if you face charges for more than one offense under one court case, you cannot complete the sentence for all the offenses at the same time if you’re a striker. The law requires strikers to serve their time consecutively. Thus, you’ll only serve one time after another.
California Juvenile Three Strikes Law
California law is very protective of minors. The law will consider ways to rehabilitate minors even when they commit a crime. That is why juveniles are generally not tried in adult courts like adult criminals, but in juvenile courts where punishments are more rehabilitative than punishing. However, there are instances when minors are tried as adults in criminal courts. It occurs when minors at the age of sixteen or seventeen commit offenses considered serious or violent felonies. They are the crimes listed under California Welfare & Institutions Law Section 707(b). When this happens, the minor will be tried under the Juvenile Three-Strike Law.
Therefore, Juvenile Strikes are offenses considered as strikes under California Three Strike Law, when committed by persons below the legal age of 18. When a minor commits any of those offenses, they could be tried as adults in an ordinary criminal court. Alternatively, the conviction can affect any felony conviction they might receive in the future. Here is a list of crimes listed under the state’s Welfare & Institutions Code Section 707b. They are also the offenses considered as Juvenile Strikes:
- Murder/attempted murder
- Arson of occupied structures or arson producing great physical injury
- Sodomy through force, threat, or violence or through the threat of serious bodily harm
- Rape through violence, force, or threats of serious bodily harm
- Sexual penetration through force
- Oral copulation by means of force, violence, and threats of serious bodily harm
- Kidnapping for the purposes of ransom, robbery, or kidnapping resulting in physical harm
- Discharge of a weapon into an occupied structure or building
- Personal use of a gun in the commission of an offense
- Assault by the use of force, and likely to cause great physical injury
- Assault by the use of a gun or any other destructive device
- A violent offense in which the victim is disabled or an older adult over 60
- Aggravated mayhem
- Kidnapping during a carjacking or for sexual assault
- A felony crime in which the offender (a juvenile) used a dangerous weapon
- Dissuading or bribing a witness
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Drive-by shooting
- The explosion of a destructive device to commit murder
- Escaping from a county facility and intentionally inflicting great physical injury on an employee of that facility
- Lascivious or Lewd acts on a minor below 14 by the use of violence, force, or threats of causing the minor great physical injury
- Selling, manufacture, or compounding at least eight ounces of a controlled drug
- A violent offense that would lead to criminal gang penalty enhancement
A conviction for a juvenile strike could significantly affect the future of a child. That is why it is advisable to involve an experienced criminal attorney to help prevent your loved one from facing juvenile strike charges in the first place.
Note that not all juvenile criminal convictions count as strikes under the California Three Strike Law, but only those that involve violent or serious felonies, such as those listed above. Additionally, an offender must be at least sixteen or seventeen years for their violent/serious felony to be considered a strike. Offenders who commit serious crimes at 18 or older are automatically tried in a criminal court.
If you are a minor of at least 16 years, a prosecutor will file a case in court to have them and their case transferred and determined in a criminal court. If the offender loses the case or takes a plea bargain in a criminal court, they’ll have a criminal conviction in their record. If the crime is among those listed under the California Welfare and Institutions Act Section 707b, the conviction will be considered a strike.
The main determining factor, in this case, is the age of the minor. The law requires the offender to be at least sixteen years or more when the offense was committed. It means that a conviction will not be considered a strike if the alleged offense was committed by a minor below 16, even if the conviction occurred when the juvenile was 16 years or older.
There are mainly four conditions that need to be satisfied for a juvenile criminal conviction to be considered as a strike:
- That the minor was at least sixteen years when the offense was committed
- That the minor was considered fit for their case to be adjudicated through the California juvenile justice system
- That the offense committed was a violent/serious felony.
- That the juvenile court declared the minor a court’s ward based on the commission of a violent/serious felony.
The Impact of Juvenile Strikes
If your child’s criminal conviction is considered a strike under the state’s Three Strikes Law, it could lead to the following:
- He/she could be confined in a California Juvenile Justice Facility or DJF.
- It could increase his/her adult criminal sentences.
DJF refers to a rehabilitation and detention system specifically used for the state’s severe juvenile offenders. The facility was formerly referred to as California Youth Authority and is a section of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The facilities offered in DJF are the closest a juvenile offender would experience to a prison.
Juvenile offenders who are sent to DJF are those that:
- Have been made wards of the court
- Have their most recent offense listed under the state’s Welfare and Institutions Act Section 707b, or
- Have their most recent offense being a sex-related offense provided under Section 290.008c of California Penal Code
Juveniles sent to DJF serve long and more serious punishment because of the nature of their offense. The amount of time an offender can be placed on detention could be the same as what they could have served in adult prison if they were charged and convicted as adults. Once the minor is in confinement, they are placed in locked-down institutions according to their age, educational needs, maturity level, individual needs, and risk.
Once there is a record of incarceration in DJF, your loved one will be considered a striker. If he/she commits another offense in their adulthood, this record could cause an increase in their sentences.
As an older offender, a juvenile criminal record is taken as a previous strike if the following are true:
- That the minor committed a violent or serious offense at the age of sixteen or older
- That the court made the minor ward of a court
- That the offense the minor committed is listed under the state’s Welfare and Institutions Act Section 707b. Or the offense isn’t listed under this law, but it is violent or serious.
- That a juvenile court judge sustained the crime in one petition
What Legal Options Does a Minor Have?
If your child is facing charges for a juvenile strike, it is important to consider their options to avoid the above and other consequences that come with a conviction. An experienced attorney will advise you accordingly and ensure that your case’s outcome aligns with your child’s best interests. Some of the options you can consider are:
A Plea Bargain
The law allows a defendant to bargain with the DA for reduced charges to avoid consequences of a more severe offense. In that case, you can have your attorney bargain with the district attorney to have your child’s charges reduced to avoid a juvenile strike conviction. Whether juvenile or adult, charges cannot be dismissed or added without a prosecutor’s approval in every court. In some instances, negotiations could also involve the judge.
If you agree to a plea bargain, your loved one has a right to keep the same judge that took his/her admission to determine the minor’s disposition or sentence.
A transfer hearing refers to moving the minor and their case from a juvenile to a criminal court. A juvenile aged sixteen or older who faces charges for a juvenile strike could be eligible for a transfer hearing. In this case, the judge in a juvenile system decides whether the offender is unfit to stand trial in a juvenile justice system. If the judge feels that the minor is unfit for juvenile court after a series of considerations, he/she can transfer their case to a criminal court for a proper hearing. Here are some of the instances in which a minor’s case could be referred to a criminal court:
- If the minor is facing felony charges at 16 or older
- If the minor is charged with any crime listed under the California Welfare and Institutions Act Section 707b and is aged 14 or 15 but wasn’t caught until the end of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction
A judge makes a series of considerations before transferring a minor’s hearing from a juvenile to a criminal court. Some of these considerations include:
- The extent of sophistication the minor exhibited in committing the offense.
- If there is a chance for the minor to be reformed before the end of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction
- If the juvenile has any prior history of delinquent behavior
- If there are any successful attempts to rehabilitate the minor in the past
- The seriousness and conditions surrounding the underlying violation
If the juvenile system judge finds the minor unfit for a juvenile court proceeding, their case will be referred to a district attorney in a criminal court.
There are advantages of having a minor in a juvenile court and having them stand trial in a criminal court. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you weigh both situations for an informed decision.
If your child’s case is determined in a juvenile court, they could benefit from the following:
- A juvenile court’s decision is always guided by a minor’s best interests, the interests of victims, and the general public.
- A juvenile court process will be faster when compared to a criminal court process. thus, the matter will be resolved a lot quicker
- The minor is safe from exposure to adult criminals as long as their case is handled in the juvenile justice system.
- It is a lot easier to have juvenile criminal records expunged for a fresh start in life.
However, this doesn’t protect the minor from receiving a juvenile strike and facing the consequences of his/her actions. That is why it might be a good idea to have their case transferred to a criminal court. As opposed to a juvenile court system, an adult criminal system can offer the following to a minor:
- Access to bail — your loved one doesn’t have to remain in incarceration until their matter is determined. You‘ll be able to secure his/her release from jail, provided the minor attends all court dates without fail.
- Right to a trial — a defendant’s right to defend themselves against the charges they are facing is not granted in the juvenile justice system. But in a criminal court, your loved one will get a chance to give their account of what happened.
- Plea bargain — plea bargains are very common in adult criminal courts. They give a defendant a chance to have their charges dismissed or reduced.
- Shorter sentences for serious offenses — sentences for violent or serious felonies are somewhat shorter in the adult justice system than in the juvenile court system.
Find a Van Nuys Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If your child is facing charges for a violent/serious felony in Van Nuys, you must do all you can to prevent them from receiving a juvenile strike. Understanding what a juvenile strike is and the options available for your loved one could help you prepare for a proper defense. If he/she is facing violent/serious felony charges today, contact Leah Legal at 818-484-1100. Let our skilled and experienced criminal defense attorneys review your case and advice on the best legal option for your situation.