If your child commits a serious offense or a violent felony in California, the court considers several factors when determining an appropriate sentence. The law aims to rehabilitate your child, allowing them to start afresh. However, there are some instances where your child will have to face severe sentencing that could affect their lives. Some of these offenses are listed under California WIC ( Welfare and Institutions Code) 707(b).

You must understand the California juvenile justice system when your child faces a severe offense charge, especially juvenile strikes. This understanding will assist you in seeking the appropriate legal representation for your young one. You will also want to ensure that your child has a second chance to rectify their mistakes, and this will require the help of a criminal defense attorney. For guidance and legal representation, contact Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm.

What is California’s Three-Strikes Law

Under California PC 667, Three-Strikes Law is a sentencing strategy where you can face 25 years in prison or even a life sentence when the law convicts you for committing three violent offenses or severe felonies. Under this section, the law ensures that the court gives you a harsher and longer prison sentence when you are convicted of a felony offense.

The three-strikes law ensures that severe or violent crimes receive harsher and longer prison sentences. Your punishment will increase when you have consecutive felony convictions with this law. When you receive retribution for a serious felony, your conviction will negatively affect any other felony sentence you will receive in the future.

Under the three-strikes law, when you receive a violent felony conviction history, your punishment will double your current conviction sentence if you are convicted again for a violent felony offense. Additionally, if you already have two records of violent felony convictions, a third felony conviction will lead to a minimum prison sentence of 25 years or life imprisonment.

For example, if you have two prior felony convictions for a severe felony like carjacking, you later face another serious felony like aggravated kidnapping. Naturally, aggravated kidnapping will lead to up to 14 years. But under California's three-strikes law, this will be the third strike against you since it's your third severe felony conviction under your criminal record. This will then lead to the sentencing from 25 years to life imprisonment.

Apart from more extended imprisonment, when you have a conviction under the Three strikes law in California, you will have lower chances of earning custody credits while in prison.  You earn custody credits in prison by receiving one-day custody credit for each day you spend in jail. Each day you spend behind bars translates to two days of your sentence served. If you face an ordinary offense sentence, your imprisonment may be reduced by half by these custody credits. However, this is not the case when convicted under California's three-strikes law.

Under California's three-strikes law, when you already have a strike against your record, you will have to complete 80% of your prison time on a subsequent conviction before being considered for an early release. Also, as a striker, the law requires you to serve your sentence consecutively when facing several charges simultaneously. With this law, you can only serve your sentence one after the other until you are done.

Juvenile Three-Strikes Law

Juvenile three strikes law refers to a child's offenses that qualify under California WIC 707(b) as a strike. Though most violations are determined and tried under the California juvenile judicial system, some are determined and tried under adult criminal courts. Some of the crimes that fall under WIC 707(b) include and are not limited to:

  • Robbery.
  • Murder.
  • Violent Manslaughter.
  • Arson.
  • Lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under 14 years of age by force, violence, and threats.
  • Forcible rape.
  • Sodomy by violence, force, coercion, or threat of severe bodily injury.
  • Aggravated kidnapping.
  • Oral copulation by violence, force, coercion, or threat of severe bodily injury.
  • Discharging a weapon in an occupied building.
  • Violent or severe felony against an elderly or disabled person.
  • Bribing witnesses.
  • Aggravated mayhem.
  • Manufacturing or selling a minimum of 8 ounces of drugs or controlled substances.
  • Causing severe bodily injuries to a government employee while escaping from the facility.
  • Carjacking.
  • Torture.
  • Kidnapping for robbery, ransom, or which causes significant bodily injury.
  • Drive-by-shooting.

For an offense to fall under the juvenile three strikes law, it must be for a violent crime or a severe felony carried out by a minor aged below 17 years. The prosecution can have minors aged 18 or above tried in an adult court.

The Consequences of Earning a Juvenile Strike

When your child  earns a strike under the three-strikes law in California, it could result in the following:

  • Detention in a Division of Juvenile Justice Facility or DJF. DJF is a facility that the state uses to detain severe juvenile offenders. DJF was previously referred to as California Youth Authority, and it is like a prison for minors.
  • It can lead to an increase in their adult criminal convictions.

Qualification For Joining DJF

For minors to qualify to be sent to a DJF facility:

  • The court must make them ward off the court.
  • They must have committed an offense listed under California WIC 707(b).
  • They must have committed a sex-related crime recently.

When your child is sent to a DJF(Division for Juvenile Justice Facility), they will serve a long sentence due to their crime. During this detention, your child could serve the same amount of time as though they were tried as an adult. In a DJF facility, minors are confined according to their educational needs, age, individual needs, risk, and maturity level.

When a child is confined at the DJF, they will serve long and severe sentencing. Although a minor is in detention, the law requires them to continue attending school. A minor can enroll in vocational or college programs while serving their time in a DJF. Upon completing their education, the facility offers these minors the opportunity to work, where they take jobs like landscaping and food preparation, depending on the minor's interests.

The state also ensures that it offers minors in the DJF facilities additional programs to cater to their needs. These programs include mental health and sexual behavior, among others. When your young one serves time at DJF, they automatically earn a strike against their record. If they were to commit another felony offense later in their life, this juvenile strike record could increase their sentencing.

Effects of a Minor’s Age On Juvenile Strikes Offenses

When facing felony charges as an adult, a minor's previous criminal record may be taken as a strike against them. If they commit a serious or violent crime 16 years and above, this can happen. This means that the minor was aged 16 years when they committed the offense that led to their conviction. When it comes to the minor's age, it matters as the law considers their age while they had the crime and not the age they were when they received their conviction or became wards of the court.

For instance, if your minor commits an offense when they are aged below 16 years and is later convicted of the offense when they are aged 16 years and above.  Their conviction will not be a strike as they were younger when they committed the crime and had not attained the minimum required age for a strike.

Factors That Contribute To Juvenile Strike

Your child will earn a strike against their record if:

  • They had a juvenile judge sustain their offense in one petition.
  • They committed a severe or violent crime, even if the crime is not listed under WIC 707(b).
  • The law considers their previous offense a violent crime listed under California PC 667.5 or 1192.7.
  • The court has made them a ward of court.
  • The court finds them fit for the juvenile justice system to take place.

For the law to consider your child's conviction as a strike under WIC 707, the state must find them to be a proper and fit subject that can be dealt with at the juvenile court. The law will consider your young one fit under WIC 602 if they were under 18 when they committed the offense, which doesn't include curfew violation. This means that the law considers the minor to be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system and can be adjudged as a ward of the court.

Factors That Determine If Your Child Is Not Fit For Juvenile Justice System

Under WIC, your child will not be a fit subject to be dealt with by the juvenile court system if the court determines they are not amenable to the juvenile justice system's treatment, care, and training programs. For the court to decide that your child is not fit for the juvenile justice system, they put into consideration the following facts:

  • The degree of sophistication your child exhibited while commuting their crime.
  • If your child will be able to be rehabilitated before the expiration of the juvenile justice system jurisdiction at the age of 21. However, when your child is facing a conviction for a charge like rape, the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts expires when they reach 25 years.
  • Your child's previous criminal history and the success rate of the juvenile justice system in rehabilitating them.
  • The seriousness and circumstances surrounding the offense your child is accused of having committed.

A Juvenile judge will determine if your child is a fit subject to the juvenile justice system based on the above factors. However, if the juvenile judge decides that your minor is not a fit subject for juvenile court, they will refer them to adult criminal court for trial.

Available Legal Options For Your Child

When the prosecution accuses your little one of committing an offense that could earn them a juvenile strike, it's crucial to weigh the available legal options. Since a juvenile strike will have some negative consequences, you should consult a criminal defense attorney for advice. There are several available legal options that you can consider when your child is accused of having committed a crime that could earn a strike against their records. These options include:

Plea Bargain

Plea bargains are agreements made between your child and the prosecutor. Your child agrees and pleads guilty to a less serious charge in this agreement, leading to less severe punishment. Sometimes, your defense attorney can deal with the prosecution and have them drop your child's charges if they plead guilty.

A plea bargain is available to minors facing juvenile strikes. It's essential to consult with your defense attorney and let them negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution for a plea bargain. With a plea bargain, your child has an opportunity to face a less-severe punishment or even have their charges dismissed altogether.

Sometimes, a plea bargain may include the juvenile judge. With a plea bargain, you can retain the same juvenile judge from the beginning of the case (admission) to the end to determine your child's disposition.

Transfer Hearing

Sometimes a minor can be tried in an adult court instead of a juvenile one despite their age.  Your child will be tried in an adult criminal court if they are aged 16 or older and faces a charge for a juvenile strike. You should note that all juvenile criminal charges do not qualify for a transfer hearing.

When the court transfers your child's case to adult criminal court, the court will try and convict them as an adult. Usually, when the police arrest a minor for a suspected offense, the little must go before a juvenile court judge within 48 hours. The juvenile judge will then determine if your child is fit to have their hearing at the juvenile court or not. A judge will use a transfer hearing to choose and decide if your child should be tried in an adult criminal court or not.

When determining if your young one is a fit subject to be tried in juvenile or an adult criminal court, a juvenile judge considers the following issues:

  • When they committed the alleged felony offense, your child's age should be 16 years or older.
  • The felony offense that your child is accused of committing should be listed under WIC 707(b). Also, your child can face a transfer hearing for a crime s/he committed while aged 14 or 15. In this case, the transfer hearing procedure applies if the minor was not brought to the court by law enforcement agents before the expiration of the juvenile court jurisdiction.

When determining if minors aged 14 or 15 years at the time they committed the crime can qualify for a transfer hearing, a juvenile court judge will put into consideration the following facts:

  • The degree of sophistication that the young one exhibited while committing the crime.
  • The young one will be rehabilitated successfully within the juvenile justice system before its jurisdiction expires.
  • Whether your child has had any juvenile delinquency history before the current case
  • If a previous court rehabilitation measure was successful in attaining its objective
  • The circumstances and severity surrounding the minor's current charge.

If a juvenile judge finds your child unfit to stand trial in the juvenile court, they will refer them to adult criminal court for trial.

What Advantages Will, Your Child, Have When Tried Under the Juvenile Justice System?

The aim of the juvenile justice system is primarily the rehabilitation of the minor. The juvenile justice system will have your young one's best interest and the victim's interest. This interest will lead to a less severe punishment that doesn't necessarily compare to the seriousness of the crime they committed.

The juvenile court ensures that a minor is protected from the harsh realities of adult prisons even after they are convicted for their offenses. The judicial court procedures for juveniles are quicker and less complicated than adult criminal court processes. Once your child serves their sentence, it is easier and faster to have their records expunged.

What Advantages Will, Your Child, Have When Tried Under the Adult Justice System?

Your child will have a chance for a fair trial in an adult criminal court due to the jury's presence. Adult criminal courts give offenders a chance to post bail, which ensures they are released from custody and enjoy their freedom as they await the outcome of their case. Under the juvenile justice system, an offender will remain in detention as they await the outcome of their case as the court does not allow for bail.

An offender can make a plea bargain, which will lead to their charges being dropped or reduced. In some cases, an adult criminal offender may have a less severe penalty than a child charged for the same offense under the juvenile justice system.

Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ)

Deferred entry of judgment (DEJ) is a situation that occurs when your child pleads guilty to a charge they allegedly committed but is acquitted after entering their plea. In this case, your defense attorney and the prosecution agree on the duration of time that the judge will put the matter over. The court will set a date for your child's sentencing and order your child to do some things. If your child completes the requirements set by the court within the stipulated time, the court may decide to dismiss the case against them when their conviction time arrives.

In California, deferred entry of judgment is available to juvenile delinquents under certain conditions. DEJ will only apply in a situation where:

  • The minor is suspected of having committed a non-violent crime.
  • The minor does not admit to committing an offense listed under WIC 707(b).
  • The minor does not contest their charges during the jurisdiction hearing. This applies even when the prosecution does not sustain your child's charges listed under Welfare and Institutions Code 707(b).

Advantages of a DEJ (Deferred Entry of Judgment)

With a DEJ, your child will benefit from the rehabilitative nature of the juvenile justice system and be spared from the harsh punishment their offense could gather under adult criminal courts. DEJ ensures that your child has a second chance to right the wrongs they have committed. The best part of deferred entry of judgment is that it does not subject your child to harsh probation conditions but only offers several requirements. Your young one must meet the deferred entry of judgment requirements, like attending counseling or anger management programs.

DEJ ensures that your child will not have a criminal record for their offense. Upon completing the set requirements, the juvenile judge will dismiss your child's case. Once your child's case is dismissed, their juvenile record will never crop up later in their criminal history. When the judge dismisses your child's case, it will help your child's future as they can legally and confidently say they have never been arrested for any offense.

Juvenile Strike Punishments

Juvenile strikes can lead to confinement in a DJF facility or probation. Your child will face DJF confinement if their most recent crime is a sexual offense, they are wards of the court, or when they commit an offense listed under WIC 707(b).

Can a Juvenile Strike Record be Expunged?

Yes, California allows for juvenile strike expungement under WIC section 781. You can have your child's criminal records expunged after serving their sentence.  Since the law will enable you to have your child's criminal record sealed, you should do so to ensure that no one uses these records against your child in the future.

If you or your family do not file a petition to have your child's records sealed, people like future employers can use this criminal history against them in the future. Remember that the prosecution can use their criminal history to enhance the sentence of their loved ones later on if they are convicted of committing another crime.

It is essential to file a petition and have your child's criminal records sealed or expunged. A juvenile strike conviction record will affect your child's future. A conviction can negatively affect their employment status and make it difficult to obtain professional licenses. To avoid the adverse effects of having a juvenile strike criminal record, you should apply for your child's records expungement. When you have your child's criminal records sealed, they will not be available for viewing by the public and can therefore not be used against your loved one in the future.

Find a Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

When your child is facing a juvenile strike conviction, it is essential to know the impact of the sentence on their life. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our team of dedicated defense lawyers will guide you and represent your loved one. We will advise and assist you on the legal procedures and develop legal strategies that will suit your child's case. In doing this, we will ensure that the court's outcome is in your favor. Call us at 951-946-6366 if your loved one is facing juvenile charges in Riverside, CA.