Special Report

When Can a Juvenile be Tried in Adult Court?

January 27, 2022 by Sarah Edwards in Special Report  
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Children Tried as Adults

You’ve likely heard the term “tried as an adult” while flipping through your local newspaper or news channel. But, what does that mean, and when can juveniles be tried in adult court?

In most cases, crimes that are committed by someone under the age of 18 are heard in juvenile court in the state of California. But, there are certain cases where juveniles get transferred over to adult criminal court. This process is known as a “waiver.”

What is a Waiver?

Waivers happen when a judge makes the decision to waive the protections that California juvenile court has in place for juvenile offenders. Waivers generally only happen for serious crimes or for minors with criminal records.

Factors Leading to Juveniles Being Tried as Adults

Before we move on to factors that cause juvenile cases to be waived, it’s important to understand that under California law, no minors under age 16 will be tried in adult court. But, teens can be tried as adults if they are 16 or 17 when they commit the alleged crime and if they’re being charged with one or more felony crimes. If these two requirements are met, the prosecutor has the right to ask the courts to waive the juvenile case, which would effectively transfer it to adult criminal court.

The same law that made it impossible for children under age 16 to be tried as adults also did away with imposing life sentences without parole for offenders under age 16. Under the law, if someone is charged with a juvenile life sentence, they can only be held in custody until they are 25.

The specific crimes that qualify to be waived to adult court in California include:

  • Murder 
  • Attempted murder
  • Arson that causes great bodily injury
  • Robbery
  • Forcible sexual assault
  • Sodomy by force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm
  • Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm
  • Sexual penetration by a foreign object
  • Kidnapping
  • Lewd Act on a Child Under Age 14
  • Ransom
  • Assault with a firearm or destructive device
  • Assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily harm
  • Discharge of a firearm into an inhabited or occupied building
  • Crimes against elderly and disabled people
  • Use of a firearm while committing a felony
  • Use of a weapon while committing a felony
  • Inducing false testimony by bribery
  • Witness intimidation
  • Drug charges
  • Gang activity
  • Torture
  • Aggravated mayhem
  • Carjacking
  • Voluntary manslaughter

Defending Against Juvenile Waiver Cases

When you work with an experienced juvenile defense attorney, there are strategies they can use to fight against having a juvenile case waived, including having expert testimony that evaluates and diagnoses mental health issues, recommends treatment, and identifies mitigating factors to keep the case in juvenile court. Some of those factors include:

  • Lack of maturity
  • Impetuosity 
  • Lack of intellectual capacity 
  • Lack of an ability to understand risks and consequences of criminal behavior
  • Effects of familiar, adult, or peer pressure on the defendant’s actions
  • Effects of childhood trauma on the defendant’s criminal sophistication

Some of the rehabilitative services that are available instead of jail time or “boot camp” include:

  • High school education
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Counseling for childhood trauma
  • Protection from being exploited by adult inmates

Accused of a Crime? Don’t Hesitate

If your child has recently been arrested, you need to contact an experienced and compassionate juvenile defense attorney ASAP.

Seppi Esfandi has more than two decades of experience and has helped juvenile offenders with cases that range from low-level misdemeanors to serious felonies. Mr. Esfandi and his team have successfully kept cases out of court and protected youth offenders from being transferred to adult court. 

Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.

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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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