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How, specifically, to handle juveniles who are accused of committing a crime has always been a sticky point. On one hand, society does want to punish those who commit crimes. However, society does realize that juveniles may not truly understand the nature or consequences of their actions. In light of this, many State Legislatures, California included, have created a juvenile criminal justice system which seeks to balance both of these societal interests. Regardless, the juvenile criminal justice system is designed to address criminal charges and retaining the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial to ensuring that the best possible outcome is achieved. One aspect of dealing with juveniles who commit crimes is when to have them tried as adults; however, this aspect challenges the societal lines discussed above. In response to this tension, California recently enacted a law which prohibited 14- and 15- year-olds from being prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system. A challenge to this law was made by victims’ advocate groups, and a California Court recently upheld the law.


SB 1391


As alluded to above, California recently enacted a law which prohibits 14- and 15- year-olds, charged with a crime, from being tried in the adult criminal justice system. This law actually reverts California back to long-term precedent with regard to its treatment of juveniles. Prior to 1994, juveniles were not tried as adults in California. Rather, they were exclusively tried in the juvenile criminal justice system. In 1994, in response to nationwide trends of juvenile crime, as well as the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, legislation enacted by the federal government, California lowered the age at which youth could be tried as adults to 14. Recent studies have shown that analysis at that time which showed that the human brain was fully developed at age 12 or 13 was incorrect. Accordingly, California last year tried to correct this overreaching by restricting those able to be tried as adults as juveniles 16 years of age or older.


Consequences of the Juvenile Criminal Justice System


Although 14- and 15- year-olds cannot be tried in the adult criminal justice system in California, it does not mean that these juveniles are able to evade punishment for their crimes completely. Rather, the juvenile criminal justice system does include a punishment aspect. However, while this system does provide punishment (more accurately referred to as “sanctions”), the focus is on rehabilitation and discipline. Some of these sanctions include:


  • Payment of a fine;
  • Payment of restitution to the victim;
  • Requirement of community service;
  • Attendance in a victim impact class;
  • Placement in a foster home;
  • Probation and/or parole, with conditions designed to ensure that the juvenile is rehabilitated; and
  • Commitment to a juvenile hall, camp, or ranch.


By imposing one or more of these sanctions, a juvenile court judge is attempting to urge the juvenile to realize that his/her actions were wrong and to correct them before reaching adulthood so that further involvement in criminal activity is curtailed.


Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney


If your son or daughter has been suspected or charged with a crime, and you are curious about  how the criminal justice system treats juveniles, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC right away. We are eager to assist you today.

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