Prop. 57: California Judges Decide What to do With Minors

What is Prop. 57?

Prop. 57, The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, removed the prosecutor’s authority to decide whether minors should be charged in juvenile or adult court. In California, that decision is now made by judges.

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Judge Decides if Minor Will be Tried as Adult

Prosecutors can no longer file charges directly against a minor in “adult” court. Only a juvenile court judge can determine whether a minor can be prosecuted and sentenced as an adult. The Judge must conduct a “fitness” or “transfer” hearing, taking into account various factor such as the minor’s age, maturity, criminal sophistication, and likelihood for rehabilitation. (People v. Vela (2018).)

Choosing Between Juvenile or Adult Court

Judges look to the five factors laid out in Welfare and Institutions Code 707(a)(2) to determine whether to transfer a minor’s case to adult court.

    1. The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor;
    2. Whether the minor can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction;
    3. The minor’s previous delinquent history;
    4. Success of previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor; and
    5. The circumstances and gravity of the offense alleged in the petition to have been committed by the minor.

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Prop. 57 Can Apply Retroactively

Pending Cases

Minors whose cases were unresolved or pending appeal when Prop. 57 was passed are still entitled to the protections of Prop. 57. The juvenile court must conduct a fitness hearing to determine whether such minors should be tried in adult court. (People v. Diaz (2018).)

Final Cases

Prop. 57 does not apply to a minor whose judgment was final. A judgment is final when the trial court imposes a state prison sentence and suspends execution of that sentence during a probationary period. (People v. Barboza (2018).)

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