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Transfer Hearings

A transfer hearing is a juvenile court proceeding where a judge decides whether a minor should be charged as a juvenile or adult. If the judge feels like the minor will not benefit from any juvenile programs, the minor is transferred to an adult court and charged as an adult.

In Califonia, most minors accused of going against the law are arbitrated within the juvenile delinquency process. But if the minor has committed a serious crime, the judge orders the minor to be tried in a criminal court as an adult.

Only the judge can decide whether the juvenile stays in juvenile court or/is transferred. A minor transferred to adult prison is likely to face a longer sentence than adult offenders. It is essential to hire an experienced attorney who knows the juvenile laws in California to help you fight for the rights of your child. You can use a skilled attorney to stop your minor’s transfer hearings to adult courts. If you are charged with a crime in the Van Nuys area, get in touch with us at Leah Legal for help.

The California Judicial Juvenile System

In California, criminal cases among teenagers are always on the rise. There is no much difference in the crimes committed by minors to those committed by seniors; the main difference is that they are both tied in separate courts. Like the adult justice system, the California juvenile delinquency system's major aim is public safety. In California, there are about 41% of minors felony arrests every year. Examples of these felony crimes committed by juveniles include assault, ape, grand theft, and murder.

Unlike the justice system used by adults, whose main objective is to discipline the criminals, the juvenile delinquency system’s main goal is to rehabilitate and treat the juveniles. California has some methods and programs used to tackle juvenile crimes. The application of these programs depends on the juvenile offender's criminal background and the seriousness of the offense. Examples of these programs include:

  • Incarceration
  • Rehabilitation programs
  • Community work
  • Detention.
  • Schools
  • Social service organization
  • Churches

The arrest of the juvenile offender is the first step of the juvenile justice process. Like other offenders, after a minor does something illegal, they are first arrested. Depending on the seriousness of the offense committed, the arresting officer can decide to set offenders free to their parents or take them to a juvenile hall. The juvenile facility is under the care of the probation department. This department also has a right to decide if they will register him/her or not. In case they are not taken in by the juvenile hall, he/she remains in the hands of the police officers. Note that the probation department only accepts registering the juvenile if he/she committed a serious crime.

Due to the rising violent cases among the minors, California juvenile halls are always overcrowded. This is why the department fails to register the arrested juvenile, not unless they have committed a violent related crime.

After the juvenile is registered into the juvenile facility, the probation department can choose to:

  • To apply for a plea against the juvenile with the juvenile court, which is the same as filing an adult’s criminal case.
  • To transfer the juvenile to an adult court with the request of the district attorney. This happens if the distinct attorney perceives that it is not okay to have your case dodged as a juvenile, depending on the seriousness of your offense.
  • In case the petition goes through and the adjudication of the minor to remain at the juvenile court, the juvenile will be:
  • Placed in foster care
  • Sent to probation and afterward taken back to the society
  • Placed on youth Authority
  • Incarcerated in a juvenile ranch or camp

But if the juvenile is tried as an adult offender, they will be sentenced but placed on the juvenile Authority up to the time they turn 24 years.

The Meaning of  Transfer Hearings

As seen above, minors are not always tried in the juvenile court. At times, the judge could decide to take some juvenile cases to be dodged and punished as adults. This is called the transfer hearings. This is a specific motion in a minor’s court where the judge chooses a particular case(mainly involving a serious crime) to a grown-up court system from a juvenile delinquency system. The minor will then be tried as an adult.

It is important to remember that the majority of the juveniles' crimes are tried in the juvenile courts in California. Only a few cases are transferred to an adult court for trial. Also, note that even though the prosecutor wants to move the juvenile to another court, he/she has no power to do that. It is only the judge who has the power to do that.

If the transfer healing takes place, and the minor is tried as an adult, he/she is likely to be sentenced for a long and spend a long time in prison with fellow offenders. This is the reason why there are only a few hearing transfers that take place in serious cases. If your child has committed serious felony crimes, it is essential to seek help from a skilled criminal attorney. An experienced lawyer can halt the transfer hearings to prevent severe penalties your child is likely to experience in the adult court.

What are The Judges Considerations?

There are several factors that a judge looks at before transferring a juvenile's case to an adult court system. They involve:

  • The minor's criminal record
  • The severity of the crime committed.
  • The programs available to treat the behaviors of the juvenile
  • If the juvenile has had treatments before and how well they reacted to the treatment.
  • The intellectual development and psychological maturity of the minor
  • The social background as well as the age of the juvenile offender

Whether the rehabilitative services will benefit the juvenile offender is another consideration that the judge looks at. If it is clear that the juvenile cannot benefit from the services, he/she is transferred to a senior court.

These are some of the situations that could lead a Califonia district attorney to begin the transfer hearing:

  • The minor is above 16 years of age, and the crime they have committed is a violation noted under PC 707(B) on the Welfare&Institutions or a felony.
  • The minor was 18 years during their arrest for a crime they were accused of when at the age of 14/15. And the offense they were arrested for should also be under code 707(b) on the institutional welfare.

It is important to note that prosecutors will mainly initiate transfer hearing when the minor's offense is under code 707(B) in the Welfare &Institution. Transfer hearings usually take place after the detention of the minor and prior to the dodging trial. Before the transfer, the juvenile offender has the right to be notified five days before the transfer, and the prosecutor usually does this.

For Instance:  A 16-year-old minor is taken into police custody for gambling, and the minor has no criminal history before this arrest. A petition will be filed in the juvenile court on the minor. Since this is not a felony offense, the prosecutor has no power to instigate the hearing transfer. Moreso, gambling is not a crime noted under code 707(B) of the Welfare & Institution offenses.

But for instance, if a minor was arrested for murder. Murder is a serious offense and falls under felony crimes. The minor could be subjected to a hearing transfer. Since no rehabilitation or educational services could help the minor change his behaviors, the judge will transfer his /her hearings to an adult court.

Offenses That Make Minors Be Tried in Adult Courts in California

Under code 707 of the California Welfare & Institution, there is a list of various crimes that are likely to lead to the transfer hearings. Only when a minor has committed the crimes noted under this law can the district attorney initiate transfer hearings of the juvenile. Minors arrested between 14 and 15 years are not transferred to adult criminal courts not unless, when they were arrested, they had already become adults.

The following are some of these offenses:

  • Kidnapping for robbery
  • Torture
  • Attempted murder
  • A homicide involving a fetus or a person
  • Ransom kidnapping
  • Arson resulting in severe physical injury or arson of an occupied structure
  • Lewd or lascivious actions with a child below 14 years by threat, force, or violence
  • Kidnapping leading to physical assault
  • Sodomy by threat, force, or violence
  • Rape through threat, force, or violence.
  • Kidnapping with the intention of sexual assaults
  • Oral sex through threat, force, or violence
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Assault by use of weapons
  • Carjacking leading to kidnapping
  • Attacks by force leading to severe physical harm
  • Aggravated mayhem
  • Exposing a gun in a residential property that is occupied
  • Exploding destructive devices to cause murder.
  • Assult using destructive devices
  • Bribing a witness or dissuading, under CA penal code 136.1 and 137
  • Assault against an elderly over 60 years or a person living with a disability under CA penal code 1203.9
  • Escape from the ranch, juvenile home, camp, forestry camp, or juvenile hall by force leading to physical harm of one of the employees.
  • An offense under CA penal code 12022.5 or 12022.3 with a weapon
  • Manufacturing, compounding, or selling substances that are illegal as described under penal code 11055(E) under Health & Safety Section
  • Committing a crime using a gun, a felony crime described under CA penal code 16590(A)
  • A vicious felony is described under CA penal code 186.22(B). The felony crime that could lead to a gang sentence

Does the Family Have the Right to Appeal the Court's Ruling?

The consequences of the crimes above are very harsh. But if a juvenile stands a trial at the juvenile court, they will likely not face the harsh sentencing. This is why it would serve justice's interest that the juvenile is taken to a senior’s court. This will ensure the minor will receive a punishment that fits the weight of the crime they committed. The jury will put into consideration some of these aspects before his verdict. But trying the juvenile using the adult criminal system might not always be in their best interest; this is why the family comes in with their attorney and appeals against the court's decision.

Transfer hearings take place to see if the minor is fit to be tried in juvenile court. In case the minor loses the case, he/she is automatically transferred to an adult court. And the family has no option other than to accept that there is a possibility that their minor will serve time in prison together with adult offenders. However, they have another opportunity to appeal to the court's decision and try convincing the jury that the programs offered by the juvenile system could benefit their loved one.

Following the first prosecution in the juvenile court, the minor has twenty days to plead the court's decision by filing a writ petition. The family could use these few days to look for an experienced and skilled criminal lawyer to represent them and try to maintain the case in the juvenile court. These cases are complex, and only a qualified attorney can offer the help required. More so, the lawyer will be needed to create a preponderance of proof to prove to the judge that the juvenile would benefit more in the minor’s court. This means that the lawyer should also be knowledgeable on the California juvenile laws.

What Happens If the Minor Fails to Win The Appeal?

The minor is likely to lose the appeal if he/she has a past criminal history and if the case in question is severe. If she/he loses, the case is tried in adult court, and the minor is likely to face severe penalties like the adult offenders.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Transfer Adult court

Minor offenders and their attorneys do their best to have the case remain in juvenile court. However, there are some pros and cons of the case being tried in the adult court. These advantages and disadvantages include:

Pros of Adult Criminal Court

Although this has lots of disadvantages, there are a few benefits that a minor might experience from this.

One of the advantages is that everyone facing criminal charges in a court, including the juveniles, is eligible for a free and fair trial. Before determining the verdict, the jury will look at both sides of the story, which means, even if there is compelling evidence presented to the court, the court can rule that the juvenile is not guilty. An experienced attorney could find and compose a great defense against your case.

Another advantage is that in adult courts, the juries are more lenient with juveniles than adult offenders. Before making their verdict, they will request more than the normal evidence; they will need more concrete evidence. This might lead to the minor receiving fewer penalties even though they were found guilty.

Additionally, because most adult jails are always overcrowded with people, the jury may issue a lighter punishment to the juvenile. In case the court does not find enough reasons to transfer the minor to jail, they can suggest better sentencing other than sentencing.

Cons of Adult Criminal Court

The following are some of the disadvantages of fo minors in adult courts:

  • The minor is likely to face severe punishments.
  • In adult court, there is no wide range of punishment options as compared to the adult courts. Additionally, treatment options in juvenile court like counseling are not available in adult court.
  • There is more stigma associated with the sentencing in adult courts as compared to juvenile courts.
  • In adult courts, the minor may be convicted for several months in prison or jail instead of detention halls.
  • It is hard to seal an adult criminal record compared to juvenile records.

Death Penalties and Life With no Parole for Juvenile Offenders in California

Although the United States Supreme Court canceled the death penalty for minors, there are still around 227 juveniles in California prisons who have been sentenced to death. These juveniles have been convicted to prison forever with no possibility for freedom and no chance for parole. The worst part, the adults they committed the crimes with will one day be free since they received lower sentencing.

In the recent past, there has been a reduction in minors' cases being convicted to death or life with no parole. With a skilled and experienced attorney, minors can have their cases remain in the juvenile court since there are more punishment options than the adult courts and the punishment in juvenile courts is not harsh as in adult courts.

Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me

It is crucial to reach out to an experienced criminal attorney if your child faces a California transfer hearing. Our professional attorneys at Leah Legal will do their best to have the case remain in juvenile court and help the minor get fair sentencing. We believe that everyone deserves a second chance in life, and we are ready to help you fight for what is right.  If you are charged in Van Nuys, CA, contact us today at 818-484-1100.