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California's Juvenile Transfer Process: From Antiquated to Complicated

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 64 Issue: 6 Dated: October 2002 Pages: 98-100
Kurt E. Kumli
Susan L. Clayton M.S.
Date Published
October 2002
3 pages
This article reviews the evolution of the transfer process of a juvenile or minor to adult court for prosecution in California. Descriptions are presented on three procedures by which a minor may now be transferred to adult court: statutory waiver, prosecutorial waiver, and judicial waiver.
In response to a violent and heinous crime committed in 1992 by a juvenile days shy of his 16th birthday, youth under age 14 in California can now be prosecuted as adults. In addition, the wave of “tough on crime” measures moved toward the procedure and policy applicable to adult criminal matters. In 2000, California passed the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act (Proposition 21). This law is most profound in the manner in which juveniles are certified to adult court. A minor’s eligibility for juvenile court has evolved from the singular process of a court-determined transfer to a complicated assortment of procedures, applicable under specific circumstances. This article briefly discusses three procedures by which a minor can be transferred to adult court: (1) statutory waiver, (2) prosecutorial waiver, and (3) judicial waiver. The statutory waiver is the requirement that certain juvenile crimes must be transferred to adult court. This waiver allows for an enormous amount of discretion for the prosecuting attorney because the required circumstances and allegations must be included in the charges filed. The most controversial method of transferring juvenile cases to adult court is prosecutorial waiver. Prosecuting attorneys have discretion (previously held exclusively by judges) to file certain cases directly with the adult system. As once the sole method of transferring juvenile cases and still a large part of the statutory scheme, the judicial waiver begins with a motion brought by the prosecuting attorney to rule on the minor’s fitness for juvenile court which places the burden of proof on the prosecutor and minor to prove the minor is or is not amenable to treatment within the juvenile justice system.