Juvenile Charged as Adult

Only the juvenile court has jurisdiction over all individuals alleged to have committed a crime before age 18.  A minor may not be prosecuted in adult court for any crime unless the prosecutor makes a motion to transfer the case from juvenile to adult court (Welf & Inst Code § 708(a)(1)).  If the prosecutor makes a motion to transfer a case to adult court, the probation officer will prepare a report and the court will hold a transfer hearing and decide if the case will stay in juvenile court or transfer to adult court. 

Prosecutors motion to transfer

The prosecutor may make a motion to transfer a juvenile case to adult court if the minor was 16 or older at the time of a felony offense, or if the minor was 14 or over and is accused of committing a Welf & Inst Code § 707(b) offense.  The prosecutor has the burden of proof to show by a preponderance of the evidence why the minor should be transferred to adult court. 

Transfer Criteria

The juvenile court judge has discretion to give weight to any relevant factor in deciding to transfer a juvenile court to adult court.  The factors the judge looks at are:   

  1. Degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor. 
  2. Whether the minor can be rehabilitated before juvenile court jurisdiction expires. 
  3. Minors prior delinquent history
  4. Success of prior attempts to rehabilitate the minor
  5. Circumstances and gravity of the offenses alleged to have been committed by the minor.   

Importance of Transfer to Adult Court

A transfer hearing is the most important part of a juvenile case because the decision whether to transfer a case to adult court can mean the difference between a sentence to the DJF until age 23, if the case stays in juvenile court, or a life sentence including life without parole if the case is transferred to adult court.