Once a minor is involved in alleged criminal activity, they face arrest and case trial in the juvenile delinquency court. However, some cases may invoke a transfer option, meaning that the minor may face a criminal trial in adult court. As a result, you will need to attend a transfer hearing, where the presiding juvenile delinquency judge determines whether to allow your case to move to adult court.  Several reasons may trigger a transfer hearing, so you want to work with a criminal defense lawyer to present your case and avoid the transfer. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we understand the juvenile delinquency court system and the procedures applicable in adult court. Therefore, you can rely on us to deliver high-quality legal services for your child's benefit during your transfer hearing and throughout the juvenile delinquency case. Over the years, we have helped many minors facing a potential case transfer to adult court and have successfully pushed for their case retention in the juvenile delinquency system.

Understanding What a Transfer Hearing Entails

The juvenile delinquency court system exists to separate court jurisdictions for cases involving minors from adult criminal cases. The distinction is essential because the juvenile delinquency system provides a more rehabilitative approach toward minors found to have involved themselves in criminal activities. On the contrary, adult criminal courts focus on retributive punishment to deter persons from committing offenses in the future.

Thanks to the division, minors will have their cases proceed in the juvenile delinquency courts, resulting in lenient and rehabilitative penalties. However, special circumstances may cause a prosecutor handling a juvenile delinquency case to reconsider their suitability under the juvenile delinquency system. This often arises when the offense you face accusations for is so serious that it calls for attention and consideration for penalties under the adult court system.

A transfer hearing, therefore, becomes important for serious cases committed by minors, as it gives the juvenile delinquency court a chance to assess the case facts and severity. These severe offenses comprise section 707(b) of the Welfare and Institutions Code, the referenced statute for juvenile delinquency case classifications. 

Moreover, the transfer hearing gives the minor a chance to present their position on why their matter should remain in the juvenile delinquency court. This, therefore, calls for adequate preparation, as losing the case would mean having your matter decided based on adult court guidelines.

The Process Leading to a Transfer Hearing

Since the presiding prosecutor is responsible for initiating a transfer request, they should follow up on the procedures before the hearing. Thus, they should follow the guidelines to ensure a fair hearing process for the minor.

Firstly, the prosecutor should observe the guidelines surrounding a minor’s age before instituting a transfer hearing. Based on specific requirements, the prosecutor should ensure that the minor was between fourteen to fifteen years when they committed an offense that qualifies for trial in adult court. Moreover, the prosecutor should ensure that the minor does not face arrest until they reach eighteen years old.

Alternatively, the prosecutor should confirm that the minor is at least sixteen years or more when they face arrest and accusations. Further, the nature of their offense should encompass serious violations that may result in a transfer hearing.

Upon establishing that either of these two factors is present in the minor’s case, the prosecutor should then move to issue a valid transfer hearing notice. Usually, they should ensure that you receive the notice within five court days to help you prepare for the hearing.

If you do not receive the notice within the recommended time frame, you can file a complaint and request the presiding juvenile delinquency judge reconsider the entire trial. Alternatively, you may ask for additional time to develop your case to uphold justice.

What to Expect During the Transfer Hearing

After the presiding juvenile delinquency judge receives the relevant documents from the prosecutor, they will authorize and schedule the transfer hearing. Usually, being present for the proceedings is beneficial for you, as you may have the chance to pick up on important statements from the prosecutor regarding your case.

Moreover, appearing before the judge demonstrates seriousness and commitment to the juvenile delinquency court process, which can be influential as the judge decides. Your criminal defense attorney will also appear for the hearing to help you present your position.

The prosecutor is the first party to speak and provide reasons as to why the judge should allow your case to transfer to adult court. Common reasons for prosecutors to instigate the transfer include the perception that your case involved sophisticated planning. Thus, the prosecutor will advocate for an adult trial, as the effects of your actions may have caused serious effects on victims.

Since the transfer hearing requires both parties to compel the presiding juvenile delinquency judge on their position, you can expect the prosecutor to provide some evidential sources or documents to support their claims. For example, if prosecutors claim that you are unlikely to reform under the juvenile delinquency system, they must support their position with credible evidence.

Once the prosecutor concludes their case, you will also have a chance to present your position and demonstrate why the case should proceed in the juvenile delinquency courts. Your criminal lawyer will consolidate applicable points that portray you positively and reduce your case's severity.

For example, your criminal defense lawyer may argue that the prosecutor pre-judged your position and that the judge should allow a full hearing to familiarize themselves with accurate case facts.

Factors for the Presiding Judge to Consider in Deciding

Since the prosecutor and your criminal defense lawyer are focused on ensuring the judge sides with them, the presiding juvenile delinquency judge should have a neutral guide to help them reach a fair outcome. Therefore, legal practice has helped establish five main factors to help a judge handling any transfer hearing find an objective case analysis system.

This way, you can expect a fair case outcome that ensures your best interests are a point of consideration. The elements for the judge’s consideration include:

     1. Whether You Committed a Serious Crime

The primary consideration is whether you committed a serious crime or if your case involves minor offenses that often result in a warning. To do this, the judge will establish what a serious crime entails by referencing relevant legal provisions.

What Amounts to a Serious Crime

The Welfare and Institutions Code includes various sections that elaborate on the nature of offenses committed by minors and their classifications in terms of severity. Under section 707(b), the legal provision lists criminal crimes that fall within the ‘serious’ category for the sake of juvenile delinquency case trials. Thus, the prosecutor handling your case will likely request your case transfer to adult court if your charges include any listed offense.

Examples of Offenses Listed Under Section 707(b) WIC

Typical offenses that trigger a request for case transfer to adult court under section 707(b) include:

  • Arson
  • Carjacking
  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Assault with a firearm
  • Robbery
  • Conducting lewd acts with a minor below fourteen years
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Committing rape using violence, force, or threats of grievous bodily harm
  • Committing assault using a firearm
  • Sodomy using force or threats of force
  • Forcible sexual penetration
  • Kidnapping for ransom

Additional offenses are available under the section, and the prosecutor must verify that your offense is severe enough to warrant a trial in adult court. However, your criminal attorney should confirm that you received the correct charges based on the alleged activities you involved yourself in.

 By conducting the due diligence, you will have established that whatever outcome you receive after the transfer hearing is fair. This, therefore, calls for your participation in providing details on your actions to your attorney as they try to establish whether you received the correct charge.

     2. The Circumstances Surrounding Your Case

Furthermore, the judge will consider your case circumstances on top of establishing the nature of your offense. They do this by checking for any aggravated or mitigating factors, as they can provide insight into your criminal intent when violating the law.

Aggravating circumstances include leaving victims injured or dead after committing a crime. This is common during robberies, carjacking, assault with a firearm, attempted murder, and murder. The presiding judge, therefore, considers the impact your actions had on the victims, including any permanent medical conditions, disfigurement, trauma, and property loss or damage.

If your case involves one or more aggravating factors, the judge will likely side with the prosecutor who instigated your case and rule for a case transfer. Nevertheless, you can appeal this decision and have your chance to present your case in a different light.

     3. Your Juvenile Delinquency History, If Any

Additionally, the judge checks your juvenile delinquency history to see if you have faced prior arrests and court processes. They do this to uncover the offense charged against you and the previous case circumstances compared to the current case.

If the judge notices an increased expression of aggravated behavior and involvement in more dangerous crime, they will determine whether it is best to retain you in the juvenile system for intensive rehabilitation. Alternatively, the judge may decide that your progression in criminal behavior warrants the involvement of adult courts to instill stricter measures.

     4. Whether You Have Successfully Undergone Reform Under the Juvenile Delinquency System

Your history of completing a rehabilitative program after a prior juvenile delinquency case is also under scrutiny during a transfer hearing. This is primarily because your past success indicates the likelihood of repetitive cooperation if the judge proceeds with your matter under the juvenile system.

On the contrary, if any reports concerning your non-participation and commitment to making behavioral changes are present in court, the judge will equally rely on the information to issue a decision against you.

Therefore, it is in your interest to complete all tasks and projects you receive under any juvenile delinquency reform program, as judges often request reviews to determine whether they impacted you.

     5. Your Current Chances of Benefiting Under the Juvenile Delinquency System

Sometimes, a minor may have portrayed resistance during previous rehabilitative efforts but is now willing to reform. The presiding judge will thus need to study your behavior during the current proceedings to establish whether you can benefit from the available reformative system.

They will also check your age to establish whether you can complete a successful program before you turn eighteen, as attaining the age of majority would qualify you to attend adult court.

Upon assessing all five factors in detail, the judge will exercise their discretion and decide whether you should remain in juvenile delinquency courts or transfer the case to an adult court.

How to Appeal After Your Transfer Hearing

Sometimes, the judge may side with the prosecutor, meaning they may authorize your case to transfer from juvenile delinquency courts to the adult criminal system. This can be detrimental for you, especially if your charges attract serious repercussions under adult court provisions. Therefore, you want to file an appeal as soon as possible to extend your chances of fighting to retain your case in the juvenile division.

You should also note that a time restriction applies for parties to appeal, so you should present your petition within twenty days of your first court arraignment. Since keeping track of court appearance dates and other responsibilities may overwhelm you, you can rely on your criminal attorney to send you a timely reminder of your scheduled appeal period.

The court will receive your documents and process you for an appeal hearing. Usually, the process may take a few days to finalize, depending on how busy the courts are. This, therefore, calls for patience on your side, as you take time to prepare your argument points for the appeal. As the party who requested an appeal hearing, you want to ensure that your counter arguments are well-founded and present sources of proof where necessary.

Similar to the initial transfer hearing, the prosecutor will have a chance to present their position and reinforce their request to have your case tried in adult court. Afterward, your criminal defense attorney can touch on the specific issues that you strongly believe the court overlooked in reaching a determination.

For example, if you had past experiences with juvenile delinquency rehabilitation that resulted in a successful outcome, you can provide details on the specific actions and projects you participated in. Further, you can request your previous supervisors to give a brief report on your rehabilitation program for additional credibility.

The presiding judge will examine the critical factors when deciding on a transfer hearing. If your appeal case were compelling enough, you would receive an order to continue with your case in the juvenile delinquency court. Conversely, if the judge stands with the previous decision, you should prepare to attend adult court hearing sessions for your case.

You will have a few days off to give the different courts time to consolidate your reports and for the prosecutor to transfer their notes and evidential sources to the assigned adult court. Once the process is complete, you will receive a notice through your criminal defense lawyer to attend your first court hearing.

Consequences of a Case Transfer to the Adult Court System

Doubtless, undergoing the adult criminal trial process as a minor can bring many uncertainties based on the different operations. Thus, preparing yourself for the possible outcomes you face will help you prepare and seek assistance where necessary mentally.

Overall, having expectations when attending an adult criminal trial also helps you complete the process with minimum delays and setbacks. In some cases, the presiding judge in the adult case may also take notice of your composure and use it as a reference when issuing a lenient sentence. Some expected outcomes after moving to an adult court include:

You May Receive Harsher Penalties in Adult Court

The penalties available in adult courts are often harsher compared to those available in juvenile delinquency courts, as they target behavioral change through retribution. For example, committing theft in juvenile court may result in mandatory behavior restructuring classes, while in adult courts, you may receive a jail penalty or a fine.

Therefore, you want to brace yourself for the relatively harsher outcomes and discuss with your attorney whether any recourse is available. Despite the possibility of more severe punishment, many judges in adult courts are somewhat lenient with minors tried in their jurisdiction.

This is because they understand the impact that harsh sentences may have on their lives, including a limited chance to explore their academics and careers. However, each judge can exercise discretion if they follow the sentencing guidelines applicable to your offense.

There are Limited Options for Sentencing Compared to Juvenile Courts

Moreover, adult courts offer limited sentencing alternatives than adult courts, meaning that you as a minor may have fewer chances of a purely rehabilitative system. For example, many juvenile delinquency courts allow minors to continue their school attendance, and the courts may place them in a foster care system.

Additionally, you may attend therapy sessions and peer behavioral restructuring classes under the juvenile delinquency court mandates. Even when you receive a detention order in the juvenile system, you will move to the California Youth Authority facilities, where you have access to additional rehabilitation options.

In contrast, adult courts mainly offer three possible case outcomes; jail or prison sentences, fine payments, and serving probation durations. Of the three, probation provides you the best chance of rehabilitation, but you will still face much scrutiny and supervision from your probation officer.

Therefore, penalties under the adult system provide less room for a minor to grow and comprehensively reform unless they remain fully committed to the process. However, even if you may be willing to complete your sentence, your exposure to harsh prison or jail conditions will likely interfere with your progress. Your rehabilitation is not as successful as what you may have received in juvenile delinquency courts.

Sealing Records in Adult Court is More Difficult than in Juvenile Courts

Record-sealing is important after serving your complete sentence, as it helps you obtain a clean slate when applying for new opportunities. Sealing your records also protects you from intense scrutiny from general members of society as you attempt to reintegrate into the community.

Although an elaborate record-sealing process is available in adult courts, it requires you to satisfy more requirements than those needed in juvenile delinquency courts. This is because the department of justice is keen on ensuring that only persons who fully reform have a chance of restarting their lives free from continuous questioning on their criminal records. Hence, you should prepare to undergo a more rigorous process, although you will succeed if you meet all requirements.

How Your Attorney Can Help You in a Transfer Hearing

Your criminal attorney’s role before and during the transfer hearing extends to a broad range of services tailored for your benefit. Therefore, you can expect your criminal defense lawyer to conduct due diligence for your case, gather all relevant evidence, represent you in court, and draft the required documents.

They can also engage the juvenile delinquency court prosecutor to reconsider the trial hearing before the prosecution team files it officially. If successful, you could avoid the trial process altogether, giving you a chance to complete your case in the juvenile delinquency court, where terms are more lenient and designed with minors’ interests in mind.

Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me

Facing a transfer hearing with no prior legal experience can be daunting, primarily because you are unfamiliar with the expectations and requirements to meet. Therefore, partnering with a defense lawyer is always advisable to help you prepare your defenses and justifications on why your juvenile delinquency case should not proceed to adult court. Under the current court system, you will have to provide counterarguments to the prosecutor’s proposition and case, so you must prepare adequately. Therefore, identifying an established criminal defense lawyer with a wealth of experience in juvenile delinquency transfer hearings is advisable. With Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, you have a chance to prepare a compelling case that increases your chances of success. Ultimately, you will have a better chance of having your case retained in the courts to help your child access the useful rehabilitative programs available to minors. For more information on transfer hearings in juvenile delinquency courts, reach us today at 951-946-6366.