If your child has been accused of a criminal offense in Southern California, you might be wondering if there is a chance he or she will be tried as an adult. While state law prohibits prosecution of children less than 14 years old, in some cases, a minor who is at least 14 years of age may be tried as an adult.
Minor children ages 14 to 17 may be tried as adults in a California Superior Court through any of the following procedures:
- A prosecutor may file a petition for a “fitness hearing” in juvenile court. If the court finds the minor “unfit” for rehabilitation, the minor will be referred for prosecution as an adult.
- At the discretion of a prosecutor, direct file in adult criminal court.
- Automatic trial as an adult for specific pre-determined aggravated offenses for an eligible minor child.
A prosecutor can petition for a fitness hearing when a minor is at least 16 years of age and is alleged to have committed any criminal offense, or a minor 16 years or older that has allegedly committed a felony where he or she has previously been made a ward of the court and found to have committed two or more felony offenses while over the age of 14 years old. Additionally, a fitness hearing can occur when a minor is at least 14 years of age and is alleged to have committed an offense found in Welfare & Institutions Code 707(b).
Welfare & Institutions Code 707(b) offenses include, but not limited to, the following:
- Attempted homicide/murder
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Rape with force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm
- Sodomy by force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm
- Oral copulation by force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm
- Forcible sexual penetration
- A lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14 with force, violence, or threat of great bodily harm
- Arson causing great bodily harm or of an inhabited structure
- Kidnapping for ransom, for purposes of robbery, for purposes of sexual assault, with great bodily harm, or during a carjacking.
- Assault with a firearm or destructive device
- Assault by means of force likely to result in great bodily harm
- Aggravated mayhem
In worst cases, minors adjudicated in juvenile court face being committed to the California Department of Corrections, Division of Juvenile Facilities until the age of 25. On the other hand, minors tried in adult court may be sentenced like any other adult, such as jail or prison time, based on the severity of the crime.
If your child has been charged with a crime in Ventura County, request a free consultation with Wilfert Law P.C. today.