Generally speaking, a minor (someone under the age of 18) is tried in a juvenile court. The California law provides for certain situations in which minors can be tried as an adult. California allows children who are least 14 years of age to face adult charges for various offenses. If a prosecutor determines the case is serious enough, they can file it in an adult court. For this to happen, the prosecutor must file a petition for a fitness hearing.
A dedicated juvenile defense lawyer will make your child’s journey through the penal system easier. For help with a California juvenile case in Los Angeles, reach out to an attorney or staff member at Spolin Law P.C. We have the experience necessary to make sure that your son or daughter is treated fairly after accusations against them surface. Schedule your free consultation using the online form, or by calling (310) 424-5816 today.
A Fitness Hearing Decides Juvenile Case Transfers
In order to transfer your juvenile’s case to an adult court, the prosecutor must file a motion to petition for a fitness hearing. At this hearing, the judge will determine whether or not your child is “fit” for the juvenile court system. To do this, they analyze the likelihood that your son or daughter can be rehabilitated. In considering this, the court examines the following five factors:
- The criminal sophistication of your son or daughter
- Whether rehabilitation is possible prior to your child turning 18
- Your son or daughter’s previous delinquent history
- The success or failure of the juvenile court to previously rehabilitate your child
- The circumstances and seriousness of the offense committed.
The prosecutor must give you at least five days’ notice of a fitness hearing. If based on these factors, the judge decided your child is unlikely to be rehabilitated, they will transfer your child’s case to an adult court. Once transferred, your son or daughter will be subject to normal court proceedings.
To learn more about fitness hearings, contact a juvenile defense lawyer at our firm right away.
Only Certain Situations Permit a Transfer to Adult Court
The criteria for moving a California juvenile case to adult court are slightly different than originally trying your child as an adult. A prosecutor may only file a petition for a fitness hearing if your child has been accused of committing a felony and is at least 16-years-old. If your child is at least 14-years-old, their case may be transferred if their offense is included in Section 707(b) of California’s Welfare & Institutions Code.
Potential Penalties a Juvenile May Face in Adult Court
In juvenile court, the worst sentence a minor can receive is incarceration in the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). If tried in adult court, however, your son or daughter can face almost any penalty an adult would. This includes life in prison without the possibility of parole. The only exception is that minors may not face the death penalty.
Appealing the Transfer of a Juvenile Case
If your son or daughter loses their fitness hearing, they may appeal the decision. The petition to appeal must be filed no more than 20 days after arraignment on the charges that prompted the fitness hearing.
Speak to an Attorney or Staff Member About Your Child’s California Juvenile Case Today
Talking to a lawyer knowledgeable in juvenile law is one of the best ways to help your child. From defense to appeal, Spolin Law P.C. will make sure your minor presents the best argument possible so that their case remains in juvenile court. To schedule your free consultation with a Los Angeles juvenile defense attorney or staff member, reach out online or call (310) 424-5816.