The Juvenile Three Strikes Law seeks to address repeat serious offenses committed by young offenders. This law mandates stricter consequences for juveniles who engage in multiple serious criminal activities. Under this law, if a juvenile is convicted of a third serious offense, they can face an enhanced sentence, including a longer period of incarceration. If your child is accused of a strike offense, reach out to our qualified defense lawyers at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney. We can advocate for fair treatment, and explore alternative approaches to punishment for your child.

What is California Three Strikes Law under Penal Code Section 667

The California Three Strikes Law, listed under California Penal Code Section 667, is a legal provision that aims to address repeat criminal offenders by imposing stricter sentencing for individuals with multiple serious or violent felony convictions. Enacted in 1994, this law responded to public concerns about lenient sentencing practices and the need to protect communities from habitual criminals.

Under the Three Strikes Law, if a person is convicted of a serious or violent felony and has one or more prior convictions for serious or violent felonies, they face enhanced penalties. For individuals with one prior "strike," the law mandates that their sentence is doubled compared to the standard punishment. If an individual has two or more prior "strikes," they face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

The objective of the Three Strikes Law is to incapacitate repeat offenders and deter future criminal behavior. By imposing longer sentences for individuals with a history of serious or violent offenses, the law aims to protect society from those deemed the most dangerous and persistent threats.

Understanding Juvenile Three Strikes Law

In California, the Juvenile Three Strikes Law stands as a unique approach to addressing repeat offenses committed by juvenile offenders. Adapted from the adult Three Strikes Law, this legislation mandates severe consequences for young individuals who engage in multiple serious or violent criminal activities. The law aims to strike a balance between accountability and rehabilitation, with the overarching goal of protecting communities while offering opportunities for youth to reform and reintegrate into society.

Under the Juvenile Three Strikes Law, if a juvenile offender aged 14 to 17 is convicted of a third serious offense, they can face escalating penalties, including longer periods of incarceration. The law operates on the principle that repeat juvenile offenders pose an increased threat to public safety and require stricter measures to deter future criminal behavior.

Proponents of the Juvenile Three Strikes Law argue that it serves as a necessary deterrent, discouraging young individuals from engaging in repeated serious offenses due to the fear of severe consequences. They believe that the law protects communities and holds juvenile offenders accountable for their actions. Furthermore, supporters contend that the law acts as a safeguard against chronic juvenile delinquency, preventing young individuals from escalating their criminal behavior.

Offenses Considered Juvenile Strikes

Under the Juvenile Three Strikes Law, several offenses are designated as juvenile strikes due to their serious and violent nature. While the list is not exhaustive, it includes offenses such as:

  • Murder — The intentional killing of another person, which can range from first-degree murder to second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.
  • Manslaughter — The unlawful killing of another person without malice aforethought, which can be categorized as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
  • Robbery — The act of taking someone else's property by force, fear, or intimidation.
  • Rape — Non-consensual sexual intercourse or any form of sexual assault, including statutory rape involving minors.
  • Kidnapping — The unlawful confinement, abduction, or removal of a person against their will.
  • Arson — The intentional act of setting fire to property, resulting in damage or destruction.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon — The use of a weapon, such as a firearm or a knife, to threaten or cause bodily harm to another person.
  • Carjacking — The forcible taking of a motor vehicle from someone using threat or violence.
  • Gang-related offenses — Crimes committed in connection with or for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

What the Prosecutor must Prove

There are elements that a prosecutor needs to prove in a juvenile strike charge, they include:

Age and Identity

The first element the prosecutor must establish is the age and identity of the juvenile offender. This involves presenting evidence to prove that the individual accused of the offense is indeed a minor at the time the alleged crime was committed. The prosecution must demonstrate that the offender falls within the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system and is subject to the regulations and provisions of the Juvenile Three Strikes Law.

Prior Convictions

For a charge to be considered a strike offense, the prosecutor must prove that the juvenile offender has prior qualifying convictions. The Juvenile Three Strikes Law typically requires at least two prior serious or violent offenses committed by the individual. The prosecution needs to present reliable evidence, such as court records or certified documents, establishing the existence of these previous convictions. The prosecutor needs to demonstrate that the prior offenses meet the criteria specified by the law.

The Seriousness of the Current Offense

To secure a strike conviction, the prosecutor must establish that the current offense committed by the juvenile offender is a qualifying crime under the Juvenile Three Strikes Law. This entails presenting evidence that demonstrates the seriousness and nature of the offense. The prosecution needs to prove that the offense falls within the category of serious or violent crimes listed in the law, such as murder, rape, robbery, or other severe acts of violence. The evidence presented should establish the elements of the offense and the juvenile's involvement in committing it.

Causal Connection to Prior Offenses

In addition to proving the prior convictions and the seriousness of the current offense, the prosecutor must establish a causal connection between the prior offenses and the current charge. The prosecution needs to demonstrate that the current offense is not an isolated incident but part of a pattern of criminal behavior exhibited by the juvenile offender. This may involve presenting evidence of a similar modus operandi, establishing a motive, or demonstrating a consistent pattern of behavior that links the prior offenses and the current charge.

The Effects of Receiving a Juvenile Strike

The consequences of receiving a juvenile strike can be far-reaching and may include the following:

Enhanced Sentencing

Receiving a juvenile strike often results in enhanced sentencing for the initial offense. This means that the young offender may face a longer period of incarceration than they would have otherwise received for the same offense without a strike.

Increased Penalties

The accumulation of juvenile strikes can lead to increased penalties for subsequent offenses. If a young individual receives a second strike, the law mandates that the sentence is doubled compared to the standard punishment. This can significantly impact the length of time spent in custody and limit opportunities for rehabilitation.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Receiving a third strike as a juvenile can result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. This means that even if the offense committed is not as severe as previous offenses, the young offender may face a sentence with no possibility of parole for a substantial period.

Impact on Future Opportunities

Having a juvenile strike on one's record can have long-term consequences. It may hinder opportunities for education, employment, housing, and other aspects of life. The stigma associated with being labeled as a repeat offender can create barriers to successful reintegration into society.

Are There Legal Options Available to Minors Facing the Juvenile Three Strike Law?

The Juvenile Three Strikes Law in California imposes stricter penalties on young individuals who commit repeat serious or violent offenses. While the consequences of this law can be daunting, minors do have legal options to navigate the Juvenile Three Strikes Law and protect their rights. Understanding these options is crucial for young individuals and their families facing the challenges of the legal system.

Plea Bargain

One legal option available to minors facing the Juvenile Three Strikes Law is to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution. A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecution where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge or accept a reduced sentence in exchange for a concession from the prosecution, such as dropping one or more strike offenses.

Plea bargains can be beneficial for minors as they can potentially result in reduced charges, lighter sentences, or the avoidance of additional strikes. It allows for a more lenient outcome and can provide an opportunity for rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society.

To pursue a plea bargain, minors need to have competent legal representation. An experienced attorney specializing in juvenile law can assess the case, negotiate with the prosecution, and advocate for the best possible plea bargain on behalf of the minor. This legal option can provide an avenue for young offenders to take responsibility for their actions while also allowing for the possibility of a more favorable outcome.

Transfer Hearings

One legal option available to minors facing the Juvenile Three Strikes Law is to request a transfer hearing. A transfer hearing, also known as a fitness hearing or a reverse transfer hearing, allows the minor to petition the court to be transferred from the juvenile justice system to the adult criminal justice system.

In certain cases, minors who are facing the potential of receiving a third strike and a life sentence may choose to request a transfer hearing to be tried as an adult. This option allows the minor to present evidence to the court demonstrating their capacity for rehabilitation, maturity, and readiness to be held accountable in the adult system.

During the transfer hearing, the court considers various factors such as the seriousness of the offense, the minor's prior criminal record, the minor's age, the amenability to rehabilitation, and public safety concerns. The court evaluates whether it is in the best interest of justice and the minor's rehabilitation to be transferred to the adult system.

It is important to note that transfer hearings are discretionary, meaning that the court has the final decision on whether to transfer the case to adult court or retain it in the juvenile system. The court considers the individual circumstances and the potential for rehabilitation in making this determination.

Factors that May Influence a Court to Approve a Waiver Petition and Transfer a Juvenile Case to Adult Court

In certain circumstances, the juvenile justice system may determine that a case involving a minor should be transferred to adult court. This process, known as a waiver petition, involves requesting the court to relinquish its jurisdiction over the minor and allow them to be tried as an adult. While the decision rests with the court, several instances could persuade a court to grant a waiver petition.

The severity of the Offense

One factor that could influence the court's decision is the severity of the offense committed by the juvenile. If the offense involves a heinous crime, such as murder, rape, or aggravated assault, the court may consider it more appropriate to handle the case in adult court. The gravity of the offense can be a compelling reason to transfer the case.

Age and Maturity of the Juvenile

The court will also consider the age and maturity of the juvenile when determining whether to grant a waiver petition. If the minor is approaching the age of majority and displays a level of maturity that suggests they understand the consequences of their actions, the court may be more inclined to send the case to adult court. The belief is that older, more mature juveniles may require a different level of accountability.

Prior Criminal Record

A significant factor that can influence the court's decision is the minor's prior criminal record. If the minor has a history of repeat offenses or a pattern of escalating criminal behavior, it may demonstrate a need for more serious consequences and intervention. The court may view the transfer to adult court as a necessary step to address the persistent nature of the juvenile's criminal activities.

Amenability to Rehabilitation

While the goal of the juvenile justice system is often rehabilitation, the court may consider the minor's amenability to rehabilitation as a factor in the waiver decision. If it appears that the minor has not responded positively to previous rehabilitation efforts or demonstrates resistance to intervention, the court may believe that the resources and programs available in the adult system would better address the underlying issues.

Public Safety Concerns

The court also takes into account public safety concerns when determining whether to grant a waiver petition. If the offense committed by the minor poses a significant risk to the community or if there are indications of continued dangerous behavior, the court may deem it necessary to transfer the case to adult court to ensure public safety and protect the community from further harm.

Can a Juvenile Strike Crime be Sealed?

Sealing a juvenile strike crime involves restricting access to the conviction record, providing a measure of privacy and protection for the individual. It is important to note that sealing a juvenile strike crime is not automatic, and the process can be complex. However, exploring the possibilities is crucial for young individuals who have demonstrated rehabilitation and want to move beyond their past mistakes.

In California, the sealing of juvenile records falls under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court. The court considers several factors when determining whether to grant a request for sealing, including:

  • Age at the Time of Offense — The individual must have been under the age of 18 at the time of the strike offense.
  • Strike Offense Type —The offense committed must be one of the 23 specified crimes listed under California's Three-Strike law, such as murder, robbery, or rape.
  • Rehabilitation and Good Conduct — The applicant must demonstrate significant rehabilitation and good conduct since the conviction. This may include completing educational programs, vocational training, or engaging in community service.
  • No Subsequent Serious Offenses — The applicant must not have committed any subsequent serious offenses after the strike conviction.
  • Time Since Conviction — A specific period, usually five or ten years, must have elapsed since the strike conviction.

Under California law, there are specific provisions that allow for the sealing of juvenile records, such as Welfare and Institutions Code section 786. This provision permits the court to seal the records of an individual who has completed their probation or attained the age of 18 and has remained law-abiding since the conviction.

However, it is important to note that not all offenses are eligible for sealing. Serious and violent offenses, such as murder, rape, or certain other serious crimes, may not be eligible for sealing under California law. Additionally, if a minor has been convicted of subsequent offenses as an adult, it may impact the eligibility for sealing.

The Process of Obtaining a Juvenile Record Expungement

This process allows individuals to potentially remove a "strike" from their criminal record, providing them with a chance for a brighter future. Below is the process which juveniles can follow to have their strikes removed.

Determine Eligibility

The first step in obtaining a juvenile records expungement is determining eligibility. Eligibility criteria for expungement may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case. Generally, minors who have completed their probation or attained the age of 18 may be eligible to pursue expungement. It is crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in juvenile law to assess eligibility based on the specific circumstances of the case.

Consult an Attorney

Seeking legal counsel is crucial when pursuing the expungement of a juvenile record. An attorney experienced in juvenile law can guide individuals through the process, provide personalized advice, and ensure that all necessary documentation is prepared accurately. They can also advocate on behalf of the individual and present a compelling case for expungement to the court.

File a Petition

The next step is to file a petition with the appropriate court. The petition typically includes detailed information about the individual, the offense(s) in question, and the reasons for seeking expungement. It is important to gather all relevant documentation, including court records, probation reports, and evidence of rehabilitation, to support the petition.

Attend a Hearing

After filing the petition, a hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, the court will consider the individual's request for expungement. It is advisable to have legal representation present at the hearing to effectively argue the case for expungement and address any concerns or objections raised by the prosecution or the court.

Court Decision

The court will evaluate various factors, such as the nature of the offense, the individual's behavior since the conviction, and their rehabilitation efforts. If the court determines the individual meets the necessary criteria and demonstrates rehabilitation, they may grant the expungement request. The court's decision will be reflected in an order, which officially clears the individual's juvenile records.

Post-Expungement Benefits

Upon obtaining a juvenile records expungement, individuals can enjoy several benefits. Expungement provides the opportunity to legally state that no conviction exists, which can improve employment prospects, housing opportunities, and educational possibilities. It also allows individuals to move forward without the burden of a criminal record, promoting personal growth and a fresh start.

Defenses Against Juvenile Three-Strike Crimes

Below are some of the common defenses used to fight juvenile three-strike crimes.

Age and Maturity

One of the primary defenses often employed in juvenile cases involves considering the offender's age and level of maturity. Juvenile offenders are inherently different from adults, both physiologically and psychologically. Courts may take into account the individual's capacity for understanding the consequences of their actions, their potential for rehabilitation, and their level of culpability due to their immaturity. By emphasizing the developmental differences between juveniles and adults, defense attorneys can argue for more lenient sentencing or alternative rehabilitative measures.

Constitutional Violations

Another defense strategy for challenging charges under the Juvenile Three Strikes Law involves examining potential constitutional violations. Defense attorneys may scrutinize whether the defendant's constitutional rights were upheld throughout the investigation, arrest, and trial. This could include assessing issues such as illegal searches and seizures, violations of Miranda rights, or coerced confessions. If any constitutional violations are found, the defense may seek to have evidence suppressed or the charges dismissed.

Lack of Sufficient Evidence

A defense strategy commonly employed in any criminal case, including those involving the Juvenile Three Strikes Law, is to challenge the prosecution's evidence. The defense may seek to establish reasonable doubt by questioning the credibility, accuracy, or sufficiency of the evidence presented. This can involve examining the chain of custody of physical evidence, scrutinizing the reliability of witness testimony, or challenging the integrity of forensic analysis. By casting doubt on the prosecution's evidence, the defense can weaken the case against the juvenile offender.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near me

If you or your loved one is facing charges under the juvenile three strikes law, it is crucial to consult with a reputable criminal attorney. Our defense lawyers at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney have a deep understanding of the challenges faced by juvenile offenders and can help you explore potential defenses, and challenge the prosecution's evidence. Call us today at 619-877-6894.