Is There Life in Prison for Minors in California?
It’s hard to imagine that your child would ever commit a crime so serious that they’d be facing life in prison. After all, that would mean they had killed somebody, right? The truth is, in the last 20 years, more than 11,500 young people were sentenced to prison in California. Thankfully, recently, California criminal defense lawyers are seeing that trend disappear.
Up until 2019, minors as young as 14 or 15 could be prosecuted as adults in California courts. That means that, if your son was convicted of felony murder ten years ago, he could’ve been sentenced to life in prison. If he was convicted of that same crime today, it would be a different story. That’s because, in April of last year, the California courts ruled that kids under the age of 16 cannot be tried as adults. However, your teenager could still face very serious charges if they’re charged with a felony. If that’s the case, you should reach out to a California criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
What Sort of Crimes Carry a Sentence of Life in Prison?
Believe it or not, there aren’t that many crimes that carry a life sentence in California. According to California penal code, the only crimes that carry a life sentence are first-degree murder, felony murder and rape. If an adult if convicted of any of these crimes, they’ll likely be spending the rest of their life in prison. They may not even have the option of parole. However, if the defendant is under the age of 16, that won’t happen. More than likely, they’ll be in a juvenile facility until they’re 18 and then they may spend a few more years in prison. The expectation is that teens who would’ve been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole will now only face 25 years to life. This will allow them to get out of prison with enough time left to get a fresh start.
Are There Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Serious Crimes?
Prior to 1977, judges in California had a lot of discretion when it came to sentencing. They would issue a sentence based on the seriousness of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history and how much of a danger to society the defendant posed. That all change in 1977. At that time, Cailfornia changed the law to apply a minimum sentence to each type of crime. This way, sentences would be uniform, and judges wouldn’t have to worry about determining the appropriate sentence. Over the last year or so, California has made it clear that the law will be changing once again. The plan is to do away with a lot of mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of drug offenses.
How are Juveniles Treated in the California Penal System?
If a minor commits a crime in California, they’ll either be treated as an adult or as a juvenile. If they’re 16 years or older, they may be tried as an adult. However, if they’re younger than 16, they will have to be tried as a juvenile. This means that, for the most part, teenagers will receive lower sentences than lifelong criminals. They’ll also spend time in a juvenile facility rather than an adult prison. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be let off easy. If your child is charged with a felony, you’ll want a California criminal defense lawyer there to help fight the charges. You don’t want them convicted and sent to prison for years.
Your California Criminal Defense Lawyer Will Push for a Reduced Sentence
The good news is, your California criminal defense lawyer knows the law and will fight to get the charges reduced. If they can’t prove your child is innocent, they’ll still try to poke holes in the State’s case. Maybe the search was illegal. Or perhaps your child is the victim of mistaken identity. Every case is unique so there’s no way to say for sure how your case will be handled. However, your California criminal defense lawyer will do what they can to get the best outcome for your child.
Contact a Seasoned California Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away
If your son or daughter is charged with any serious crime in California, you need help. There is too much at stake to leave this to chance. It’s in your best interest to talk to a California criminal defense lawyer sooner rather than later.