Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
Thank you for the opportunity to assist you.Q) Who determines whether a 16 year old minor is charged as an adult or as a juvenile in California when a violent crime has been committed?The general rule is that an accused under 18 is tried as a juvenile. The prosecutor can ask that any accused who is 16 years or older be tried as an adult if certain criteria are met. (But read below for other scenarios.)That hearing is called a "fitness" hearing. In other words, the legal issue is to decide whether or not the juvenile is "fit" for rehabilitation under the juvenile court system or whether the juvenile should be moved to the adult system. The ultimate decision rests with the juvenile court judge.In CA, a judge looks at 5 factors during the fitness hearing to determine whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult:(A) The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor. (B) Whether the minor can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court's jurisdiction. (C) The minor's previous delinquent history. (D) Success of previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the minor. (E) The circumstances and gravity of the offense alleged in the petition to have been committed by the minor.These factors are dictated by the CA Welfare & Institutions Code, section 707.The exception to the above 16 year old rule is the "serious offenses" rule, which applies to 14 year olds. Serious offenses are things like rape, murder, forcible sodomy, kidnapping, carjacking, etc. The prosecutor can also "direct file" in superior court if the juvenile allegedly committed a serious violent offense OR if the juvenile has a previous felony conviction and the current charge is gang-related or a hate crime.Rarely, if ever, do juveniles ask or petition to be tried as adults.I hope my response has been helpful. If you have follow-up questions or concerns on this topic, please ask. Otherwise, please rate my answer positively so that I can receive credit for my work. Doing so will NOT cost you any additional fee.Take care,Shuband