In Los Angeles, When Would a Juvenile Be Tried in Adult Court?

Being the victim of a crime, especially a violent crime, can be a very traumatic experience. We often picture the people behind these crimes as depraved adults who care very little for the well-being of others. We are often shocked when children commit serious crimes, but it happens every day. However, the adult criminal justice and prison systems are no place for children. We have a separate juvenile justice system for young offenders that focuses more on rehabilitation than punishment. But what about children who commit crimes so severe that the consequences of the juvenile justice system are not enough?

A juvenile offender may be tried as an adult in adult criminal court in Los Angeles in certain cases. However, this may only be permitted if specific conditions are met. Typically, a juvenile can be tried as an adult only if they are 16 or 17 years of age. Juveniles aged 15 and younger can never be tried as adults, no matter how serious their alleged crimes were. Also, to be tried as an adult, the crimes in question must include at least one felony offense. Under these conditions, most juvenile offenders probably do not qualify to be tried as adults in Los Angeles.

If your child has been charged with a crime as a juvenile, and you believe prosecutors may seek to have their case transferred to adult court, please immediately contact our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys. Transfer to adult court is not guaranteed and we may be able to fight the transfer. Reach out to our dedicated lawyers for help by calling (909) 861-8075.

Trying Juveniles as Adults in a Los Angeles Criminal Case

Juvenile offenders typically go through the juvenile justice system when they commit a criminal offense. The legal process and sentencing outcomes for juveniles are usually very different than for adult offenders. However, when juveniles commit “adult crimes,” they may be processed through the adult court system and face harsher consequences. Transferring a juvenile case to adult court does not happen automatically and specific criteria must be met.

Generally, juvenile offenders include anyone under the age of 18. However, only juveniles aged 16 or 17 may be transferred to adult court. Not only that, but the juvenile must have allegedly committed a serious crime. If there are no felony charges, a juvenile cannot be transferred to adult court. Finally, the prosecutor must ask for the case to be transferred and the court must approve the transfer.

Juveniles who commit non-serious misdemeanor crimes will not be transferred to adult court. Even juveniles who commit violent felonies may be spared the rigors of adult court if the court feels their case is a better fit for the juvenile justice system. If you believe your child’s case may be transferred to adult court, call our Diamond Bar criminal defense lawyers for help.

When Juveniles Are Too Young to Be Tried as Adults in Los Angeles

As mentioned above, only juveniles ages 16 or 17 can be transferred to adult court. This transfer can only occur if the juvenile committed a felony offense. However, in years past, juveniles aged 14 or 15 could also be transferred to adult court if their cases met some very serious conditions.

First, the juvenile must have been 14 or 15 years old at the time of the crimes. Anyone younger cannot be transferred to adult court under any circumstances. Second, the crimes must have included incredibly serious, violent felonies. A 14- or 15-year-old juvenile could be transferred to adult court if they were charged with murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, or something similar. Finally, the juvenile must not have been caught by the police before the age of 21.

In February of 2021, the rules regarding transferring juveniles to adult court became stricter. The California Supreme Court ruled that any juveniles younger than 16 cannot be transferred to adult court under any circumstances. This includes 14- and 15-year-olds who commit serious violent felonies. If your child’s case is at risk of being transferred to adult court, call our Long Beach criminal defense attorneys. We can challenge the transfer and hopefully keep your child in the juvenile system.

Transfer and Fitness Hearing for Juvenile Offenders in Los Angeles

Transferring juvenile offenders to the adult court system is not always an easy process. While prosecutors must request this transfer, they do not hold the ultimate authority in deciding how the case is tried. There must be a transfer hearing in which the prosecutor must explain why the case deserves to be tried in adult court. The juvenile and their defense attorney will argue against the transfer at this hearing and a judge will make the final decision.

Transfer hearings are also known as “fitness hearings” because the judge must determine if the defendant is “fit” to be tried as a juvenile. If the defendant is found to be unfit for juvenile court, the case may be transferred to the adult court system. Several criteria are considered by the judge in a transfer hearing:

  • The degree of “sophistication,” such as the level of cunning or criminal ability it took to commit the crime. For example, a crime that took advanced planning and preparation may be regarded as a more “adult” crime.
  • The potential for rehabilitation
  • The juvenile’s criminal record
  • Previous attempts to rehabilitate the juvenile
  • The seriousness or gravity of the offense

Minors who may meet all the eligibility criteria to be transferred may remain in juvenile court if the judge finds their case a better fit for the juvenile system. If your child’s case is transferred, we can appeal the transfer by filing a petition within 20 days of your child’s arraignment. Our San Bernardino criminal defense lawyers can help.

Call Our Los Angeles Juvenile Defense Lawyers for a Consultation

If your child has been charged with a serious offense and you believe they may be tried as an adult, our team of Los Angeles juvenile criminal defense attorneys can help. We can help keep your child’s case in the juvenile justice system so they can get the rehabilitative services they need. Call our Fontana criminal defense lawyers offices at (909) 861-8075 for a private consultation.

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