If officers have arrested your child for a crime, you may worry about the potential for the courts to try your youth as an adult. These concerns are valid as at least one minor a week on average faces charges as an adult in California.
A desire to keep your child’s case in the juvenile justice system is reasonable because that process puts more emphasis on rehabilitation and protecting the young person. Whether your child faces trial as an adult depends on the following factors.
Age of your child
The legal definition of a minor refers to anyone under the age of 18. As a result, your child will face charges as an adult if age 18 or older, even if still living at home or attending high school.
The California Supreme Court allows minors from the ages of 14 to 17 to potentially face charges in the adult criminal system. (Children under 14 cannot go on trial as adults.) However, a decision in February 2021 limits the types of offenses that can permit a 14 or 15-year-old to go on trial as an adult.
Nature of the alleged offense
Another primary element is the nature of the offense under consideration. Serious crimes, such as murder and violent acts causing significant harm, can lead to adult court proceedings. In contrast, less severe offenses, typically misdemeanors like petty theft or public drunkenness, are more likely to occur within the juvenile court system.
Results of a fitness hearing or appeal
When your child faces accusations of a serious offense, the youth must go through a fitness hearing. During this process, the judge assesses various factors to decide whether the minor should face charges as an adult. The judge will consider your child’s criminal history, the level of sophistication necessary for the crime, any prior rehabilitation efforts and the gravity of the offense.
If the judge decides to transfer the minor to adult court, you have an opportunity for appeal. However, you must file this appeal within 20 days from the date of the arraignment.
California statutes seek to strike a balance between rehabilitating young offenders and ensuring a just outcome for criminal activity. Each case is unique, so you will have to examine your specific circumstances to determine what steps to take to give your child better odds of fair treatment.