Juvenile Justice Reform in California

California is at the forefront of criminal justice reform. Last year, many laws were passed to reform the criminal justice system in an effort to make it fairer for Californians accused of committing crimes, whether they were serving time in juvenile detention facilities, jails, or state prisons. Abuses occur in any system, it is how those abuses are addressed that are the true measures of progress.

One area in the current spotlight is juvenile justice reform. Children under 18 who commit crimes are increasingly charged as adults as if they have the mental and emotional maturity to understand the consequences of their actions. As a society Americans feel that criminal conduct should be punished through incarceration; serving time seems to be the only acceptable form of punishment.  

The amount of time required to be served for certain crimes is disproportionate to the nature of the offenses. For example, white collar crimes are generally punished less severely than all other crimes even though the impact of the crime is felt by more people than a crime impacting just one victim. Drug crimes, especially simple marijuana possession, are punished more severely than sexual assault crimes, making no distinction between physical violence and drug addiction.

Two bills went into effect on January 1, 2019 specifically aimed at addressing some of the problems in the juvenile justice system. The first of those laws was Senate Bill §1391. This bill, now law, amends the Welfare and Institutions Code to eliminate the prosecution of 14 and 15-year-old children as adults. Effective January 1, 2019, criminal cases involving children under 15 years of age will remain in the juvenile court system. Children over 16, or individuals over 18 who committed a juvenile crime but eluded arrest until after they turned 18, or who commit a serious or violent felony can still be charged as adults should the prosecutor request it.

Prosecutors to Decline Charging Children Under 12 for Crimes

The second law, Senate Bill §439, also amends the Welfare and Institutions Code to eliminate the adjudication of crime, in both juvenile and adult court, for children younger than 12 years of age. Children accused of murder and forcible rape, however, will still face juvenile or adult charges, depending on the severity of the crime charged. A child under 12 will be released to his or her parents and be subject to supervision outside of the criminal justice system.

These reforms are an important step forward in thinking about crime and crime prevention. By offering social services rather than jail time to children accused of crimes, rehabilitation can be achieved and such children returned to society as contributing members.

Do Not Go it Alone

If your child has been arrested and charged with a crime in San Diego, contact a qualified San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate penalties today and explain your legal rights and responsibilities. Available 24/7, the Boertje Law Firm represents clients at any stage of the criminal case and for any crime charged — violation, misdemeanor, or felony.  

We serve the communities of San Diego County including Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, Fallbrook, Imperial Beach, La Jolla, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, National City, Oceanside, Poway, San Diego, San Marcos, Santee, Spring Valley, and Vista. The San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney David Boertje is available to talk to you. Call us toll free at (888) 476-0901 or contact us on the web to start legal representation right away.