Once a child commits a criminal offense in Orange County, he/she is charged in juvenile court. The juvenile delinquency courts are special courts created to protect minors from harsh sentencing in adult courts. Sometimes the court may consider the case as serious and sentence them under the three-strikes law. To determine suitable punishment, the juvenile court considers several factors. Generally, minor offenders deserve a second chance to improve their wrongful behaviors. Grave offenses listed in Welfare & Institution section707(b) carry severe penalties.

If the police arrest your child for a severe felony crime, you may want to learn about the strikes law and its effects on the child’s future. Then, consider hiring an attorney conversant with the juvenile system. The attorney will help you build a solid defense to ensure the court offers your child the available rehabilitation services. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, your child will be in the hands of our skilled attorneys. Thus you will obtain the best outcomes of the case.

Understanding Three Strikes Law In California

The law involves sentencing offenders for repeated crimes. Again, the law ensures several junior offenders receive harsher punishments for reoffending violent and severe crimes. Generally, the law requires the juvenile judge to sentence a junior offender facing conviction for committing three or more felony offenses. The sentence is longer than it would appear for each separate felony.

In California, juvenile criminal strikes are outlined under the Welfare & Institution section 707. The law considers the listed crimes as strikes under the three-strikes law. If you are underage and commit a felony crime, the juvenile court will decide your case as a strike under the following conditions:

  • You commit an offense considered a serious or violent felony under the California penal code.
  • The alleged crime is listed under California WIC 707(b).
  • You are 16 years old when you engage in the crime.

Example: John has two prior convictions for possessing controlled drugs( a serious felony). After some time, the police arrest him for carjacking( a severe felony). Primarily, possessing controlled drugs attracts a sentence not exceeding nine years. Since it's a third-time conviction for a serious felony in John's criminal records, the juvenile court would treat the crime as a third strike. Then, John would remain in prison for at least 25 years.

Besides the lengthy prison sentence, you will receive a low custody credit if you receive a conviction under the strikes law. A California custody credit serves to reduce the days you would remain behind bars. With custody credit, you will receive a one-day credit on every present-day you serve in prison. It means an actual day you stay in jail would translate to two days of jail sentence served. But, if you face conviction on a three-sentence law, you will not have the credit.

To understand California's three-strikes law, consult a competent criminal defense attorney conversant with the juvenile system. The attorney will examine and analyze your case and take you through the whole juvenile process.

What Constitutes Three Strikes Law

Once you receive a juvenile conviction, it doesn't necessarily count as a strike. The felony conviction counts as a strike when you commit a violent crime when underage. Sometimes, you may face the charges at the adult court even if your age is below 16.

When your offense is serious, and you have 16 years or above, the juvenile judge may refer your case to the criminal court. If the judge delivers his/her final verdict and your charges are a violent or a severe offense, the conviction would be considered a strike.

Conditions For Three Strikes Law

According to California law, a felony counts a strike when the minor offender meets certain conditions. The prosecutor should prove the conditions beyond a shadow of a doubt to ensure the sentence counts a strike. The conditions include:

  • Nature of The Offense

For the offense to count a three-strike, the prosecution team must prove the crime was a serious or violent felony. Again, the offense must be listed under penal code 666.5/1192.7 or listed under WIC 707(b). When the prosecution team proves the juvenile felony, then you will receive conviction under the strikes law.

  • Age of The Offender

The prosecution team must prove you were 16 years when you engaged in the alleged crime. It means you were 16 years old when you engaged in the crime that led to your sentence. Thus, if you committed the alleged crime at the age below 16 years but convicted later when you had 16 years or above, the juvenile court won't consider the conviction as a three-strike as per the law.

  • Whether The Offender is Fit to Face Conviction At Juvenile Courts

The prosecution team should prove you as a fit and proper subject to receive conviction under the juvenile delinquent court. For instance, under WIC section 602, you should be at least below 18 years when you commit a felony crime. Therefore, if you commit a felony offense at the age of 18 years and below, you are fit to face conviction under juvenile delinquent court.

Alternatively, the juvenile court may conclude you are unfit to face conviction under juvenile court. Again, the juvenile judge may argue you are unfit for rehabilitation programs or treatment under WIC 707(b). To determine whether you are eligible to face conviction under juvenile court, the juvenile judge considers the factors below:

  • The severity of your offense.
  • Your prior delinquent records.
  • The degree of sophistication for your crime.
  • The outcomes of your previous treatment or rehabilitation program.
  • The seriousness and the circumstances surrounding your current case.

In case the juvenile delinquency court decides you are unfit to face trial in the juvenile delinquency court, you will face your conviction under California criminal courts. At the criminal courts, you will face conviction like a grown-up.

Juvenile Crimes That Count As Strikes

In California, a minor may commit several crimes considered as a strike in their records. The offenses are severe and violent. They include the following:

  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Arson in inhabited building leading to bodily injuries
  • Kidnapping for robbery or ransom
  • Committing violent crimes while using a destructive weapon like a gun
  • Attempted murder
  • Lascivious act
  • Violent felonies
  • Assault using a firearm
  • Forcible sodomy
  • Carjacking
  • Aggravated mayhem
  • Torture
  • Rape using force or violence thus causing bodily injury
  • Dissuading or bribing a witness
  • Violent acts against older or disabled people aged 16 years and above
  • Manufacturing, processing, or compounding controlled substances
  • Escaping a detention facility while causing injuries to an employee at the incident

Convictions Outside The State

Imagine you have a felony conviction outside California. In this case, the conviction may qualify as a strike after walking in the state if the offense caused your sentence was a severe felony. You might have a California strike record, even when you committed the crime in states where the crime isn't termed a strike. According to California penal code 1192.7 and 667.5, the California juvenile court may consider your prior conviction a strike even if the record was removed under other state's laws.

The law allows the juvenile court to use your previous evidence to award you severe punishments. Also, the prosecution team will present proof of your last conviction to ensure the court issues a strike against your records. Although it's rare for minor offenders to receive a three-strike, the court may apply the strike against them to convict a future crime.

Penalties For Juvenile Delinquent

After a minor offender commits a crime, the law enforcement officers may place them in a detention center. The police may decide to release or send them to a DJJ facility. The juvenile system focuses on rehabilitating junior offenders rather than punishing them. But, rehabilitation doesn't mean your child won't receive punishment for their behavior. The court uses the penalties to discipline the junior offender. In Orange County, the juvenile delinquent penalties include:

  • Probation
  • Fine payment
  • Community service
  • Placement in a foster home
  • Attending a juvenile hall ranch or camp

Remember, any serious felony committed by a minor could count as a juvenile strike. Once the junior offender faces conviction and receives a three-strike on their record, they may face life imprisonment.

Consequences of Juvenile Strikes

After committing a felony crime, the juvenile court may send the minor offender to a DJJ facility. Also, the juvenile court may issue a strike against your child for committing the crimes we listed above.

Your child will receive severe and prolonged confinement. At the detention center, minors must attend classes on a full-time basis. Upon completing high school level, the minor offender enrolls in college and vocational programs. Once they are through with the training, most junior offenders receive jobs in their areas of confinement. The works may include janitorial work, landscaping, and food preparation.

Besides the DJJ facilities' essential programs, the junior offenders receive extra programs based on their needs. The additional programs include mental health and sexual behavior treatment.

The sentencing doesn't end at the DJJ facility. Juvenile offenders may receive extra penalties when they commit additional offenses in their future lives. Extra penalties translate to prolonged sentences and hectic fines.

Dismissing Prior Strike Offenses

The law is harsh to repeat junior offenders; thus, if you face a third felony offense, consult legal help from a competent defense attorney. By doing so, the attorney may help you dismiss the prior felony convictions. Your attorney may file for a 'Romero motion,' and the juvenile court will set a date for the motion. To determine whether the court will dismiss your prior strike convictions, the court analyses the following factors:

  • The length of the sentence the juvenile delinquency court will impose if your prior felony offenses are not dismissed
  • Lack of severity in the offender's current offense. If you face charges for a non-violent felony offense, the court may dismiss the prior conviction due to the present case's nature. Even in circumstances where the offender has extensive records, the current case's nature may support the previous strike conviction's dismissal.

Will a Minor Charged With Juvenile Strikes Face Trial In Adult Courts?

As we mentioned earlier, a juvenile offender may face his/her prosecution at the criminal adult courts. It especially applies to the junior offenders aged at least 16 years old with a strike charge. Remember, not every case is a subject for a transfer hearing. But, if the juvenile judge refers your child's case to the adult courts, the child offender will receive conviction like a grown-up.

When police arrest a juvenile offender for committing a particular offense, they present him/her before the juvenile court within 48 hours. The juvenile judge may conduct a transfer hearing to know whether the offender qualifies to face judgment at the juvenile delinquency court or criminal adult court. The offenders whose cases qualify for a transfer hearing are:

  • Offenders facing charges for felony offenses they committed at the age of 16 years and above.
  • The offender faces a charge for a crime listed under the Welfare & Institution section 707(b).

To decide whether the case qualifies for a transfer hearing, the juvenile judge will consider the following factors:

  • The minor's previous delinquency criminal history.
  • The degree of sophistication for minors criminal behavior.
  • The circumstances and the gravity of the case.
  • Whether the juvenile offender may undertake rehabilitation before court jurisdiction expires.

If the juvenile judge decides the junior offender is unfit to face trial in juvenile court, the juvenile court refers the case to the adult court, and the minor faces trial like a grown-up. Facing trial at the juvenile and adult courts has its benefits and disadvantages. The following are several advantages of facing judgment at the juvenile courts:

  • The legal court process is quicker at the juvenile court.
  • The juvenile offender will receive a punishment that may not match their alleged crime's gravity.
  • The system is fast and easier to expunge a criminal record for a juvenile conviction.
  • The court protects minors from interacting with grown-up criminals even after finding the minor guilty of their case.

Alternatively, the following are benefits of facing judgment under the criminal adult court:

  • You will have access to bail.
  • You will receive a fair judgment, including jury presence at the trial.
  • The courts provide an opportunity to plead guilty, whereby the charges may be dropped or reduced.

Plea Bargain In A Juvenile Strike

A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the offender where the offender agrees to plead guilty to a less serious charge in exchange for a more lenient punishment. With their defense attorney, the offender may bargain with the prosecutor on their charges. The negotiation between the prosecutor and the defense attorney may include the juvenile judge. Sometimes the prosecutor promises to drop the offender's charges once you take a guilty plea.

Like in the adult courts, the same may apply to a minor offender facing a California juvenile strike. As a minor offender, your defense attorney may negotiate with the district attorney for a less severe charge once you agree to make a guilty plea. Thus, the judge may arrange for a less severe charge or have the charges dropped.

Sometimes the negotiations may involve the juvenile judge. If the offender's case has a plea bargain, the minor is allowed to retain the judge who admitted him/her for the same judge to determine the juvenile's disposition.

DEJ For A Juvenile Strike

A DEJ occurs when the offender pleads guilty for a crime they committed but acquitted after entering a guilty plea. The juvenile judge may end the case for about one or more years. The defendant's lawyer and the prosecutor's agreement determine the time. Then the court sets the dates for the offender's sentence. Thus, the court will order the offender to carry certain things. After the offender completes the requirements as ordered by the court, the court may dismiss their charges on the date of conviction.

In California, a DEJ applies to minor offenders but under certain conditions. The junior offender must not have engaged in a violent offense. Also, the crime should not be listed under WIC 707(b). The deferment is unavailable for a minor offender contesting his/her charges during a jurisdiction hearing. The latter condition applies even when the prosecution team has sustained the minor offenders charge under section 707(b). DEJ has several advantages, including:

  • The minor receives rehabilitation rather than punishment since the juvenile system focuses on rehabilitating the junior offenders. Children are given a second opportunity in life.
  • The minor offender will eliminate the possibility of having a juvenile conviction in his/her criminal records. Upon completing the court requirement, the juvenile judge will drop the charge, and the details will cease to exist on their juvenile records.
  • It doesn't subject you to a probation term or condition. The juvenile court only issues several requirements for the minor to complete. The requirements may include completing counseling records or drug rehabilitation.
  • The minor offender may legally say they haven't faced conviction for the offense in question.

Can The Juvenile Court Remove A Juvenile Strike?

Yes, your juvenile strike record may be sealed as per the WIC 781. However, if your juvenile criminal record isn't closed, the criminal adult courts may use them in your future convictions. Also, the juvenile court may dismiss your strike under WIC 782 upon receiving factual findings. If the juvenile court seals your juvenile criminal records, they will cease to appear in your records. Thus the public won't access your criminal records.

You will confidently say the police have never arrested you; you will no longer have existing criminal, juvenile records. The juvenile criminal record may include exhibits, arrest reports, probation reports, or any document showing criminal crimes you committed at 16 years and below. The juvenile court can expunge a strike based on the nature of the crime. But, the court cannot erase the strike when:

  • The court requires the minor offender to register as a sexual perpetrator.
  • The junior offender committed the felony offense at the age of 14 years and above.
  • The offender received the strike for a sex crime outlined in Welfare & Institution Code 707(b). Severe sex crimes may include lewd acts, forcible sodomy, oral copulation, or violent rape.

The court will remove all other strike offenses though the court won't destroy the records. The records will still be accessible by the prosecutor, probation department, or the juvenile court when you commit another felony offense in the future. Note that the juvenile court may either grant or deny you the removal. Alternatively, a juvenile court may expunge your juvenile strikes. However, for the juvenile court to expunge the strikes, the juvenile offender must:

  • Be above 18 years or above and must have conducted their probation as per the court.
  • Be aged 21 years or have completed the supervision conducted by the Juvenile facility.
  • Enough time must have passed for the record sealing to occur.
  • Have committed an offense with a juvenile court allowed to seal.

By removing your strike conviction, the juvenile records will not become a barrier when you seek employment opportunities in the future. Again, you will be able to tell prospective licensing agencies, employers, or landlords you never faced a juvenile felony conviction.

Find A Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

Once your child faces a juvenile strike conviction, it’s critical to know the sentence's impacts on your child. For instance, the court proceedings may claim much time and affect the child’s studies. Also, the consequences of a juvenile offense may hurt their future. For your child to receive justice, consider hiring a skilled attorney. The attorney will guide you through the whole juvenile process.

At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, our team of skilled attorneys is ready to help you. We advise, guide, and build a solid defense to influence your case's outcomes. If the law enforcement officers arrest your child in or around Orange County, CA, call us at 714-262-4833 and talk with one of our defense attorneys.