December 31, 2016
All juveniles will now have the right to a hearing before they are transferred to adult court, according to new California legislation passed on Nov. 9, 2016. However, implementing the law means that nearly everyone in the legal system will need to go through extensive training. New services for young offenders who commit serious crimes will need to be put in place. The legal community will need to determine how to handle cases currently in process.
Voters passed the measure, Proposition 57, by 64 percent. Prior to the enactment of the law, prosecutors could automatically charge juveniles in adult court, depending on the young person’s criminal history and the type of offense, among other factors. The proposition instead lets judges instead of prosecutors make the final determination. Prosecutors sometimes made rushed decisions before they even had all the facts in the case.
Opponents of Proposition 57 feel that public safety might be in jeopardy. For example, some states have a list of serious crimes that automatically mean a transfer for a juvenile to adult court. A judge will review criteria, including the young person’s potential to change, before transferring him or her to adult court. The new criteria provide more overall information on a juvenile’s situation. Prosecutors now need to make a strong case before the court regarding a transfer. Previously, the burden was the young person to prove that he or she belongs in juvenile court. As a result, fewer adolescents will likely be transferred to adult court.
On the other hand, the juvenile court system needs to be prepared for an influx of young people who have committed serious crimes. They will need intensive treatment and related services, such as mentoring programs, intensive interventions, mental health counseling and behavioral treatment. Young offenders do not respond well to continued incarceration. Instead, the system will need to reevaluate the continuum of care.
The bill was not clear on the application to currently pending cases. Supporters believe that these cases will now go to a hearing.
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