Juvenile “Strike Crimes” Under California Welfare & Institutions Code 707(b)

3 Strikes Law: Do Juvenile Convictions Count?

More info at http://www.shouselaw.com/juvenile-strikes.html Does a juvenile conviction count as a strike under California Three Strikes Law? Sometimes yes, as this criminal defense attorney explains. A “sustained petition” (a conviction for a strike in juvenile court) counts under three strikes law if three conditions are met. First, the minor or juvenile must have been at least 16 years of age at the time the crime occurred. Second, the offense must be one that would count as a strike for adults. Third, it must be a crime listed in California Welfare and Institutions Code 707b.

A juvenile crime counts as a strike under California's “Three Strikes” law when it is one of the offenses listed in Welfare & Institutions Code 707(b). The following requirements must be met:

  • the minor is age 16 or older,
  • the minor is made a ward of the court,
  • the crime is listed in WIC707(b) and is a serious or violent felony, OR
  • the crime is not listed in WIC707(b) but is a serious or violent felony AND
    • the court sustains a WIC 707(b) offense in the same petition.

A juvenile strike conviction can result in:

  • commitment to a Division of Juvenile Justice facility (Youth Authority),
  • transfer to adult criminal court,
  • increased penalties as an adult.

In this article, our California Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys will highlight some of the most important things to know about juvenile strikes and felonies. We cover:

If you have further questions after reading this article, please contact us at the Shouse Law Group for a consultation.

umpire calling a strike

1. What is California's “Three Strikes” law?

California's Three Strikes law is a sentencing scheme. It can greatly increase the prison sentence of repeat offenders. Many serious and violent felonies are classified as strikes in California.1 The idea is that people with prior strike convictions deserve:

  • longer sentences, AND
  • lower custody credits.

2. What is a Juvenile Strike?

Juvenile strikes are those crimes that would be considered strikes under the “Three Strikes” law.2 These juvenile crimes are listed in Welfare & Institutions 707(b). Under certain circumstances, juveniles aged 16 and older can even be tried in adult court.

The WIC 707(b) offenses are:

  • murder or attempted murder,
  • arson of an inhabited structure or causing great bodily injury,
  • robbery,
  • rape with force, violence or threat of great bodily harm,
  • sodomy by force, violence or threat of great bodily harm,
  • a lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14 with force, violence or threat of great bodily harm,
  • oral copulation by force, violence or threat of great bodily harm,
  • forcible sexual penetration,
  • kidnapping for ransom, robbery, or with bodily harm,
  • assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, or with a firearm or destructive device,
  • discharge of a firearm into an inhabited or occupied building,
  • a violent felony against a person who is over 60 or disabled,3
  • personal use of a firearm,4
  • a felony offense in which a minor personally used a weapon,5
  • dissuading a witness or bribery of a witness,
  • manufacturing, compounding, or selling eight ounces or more of a controlled substance,6
  • a violent felony which would constitute a criminal gang enhancement,7
  • escape from a county facility if great bodily injury is intentionally inflicted upon an employee of the facility,
  • torture,
  • aggravated mayhem,
  • carjacking,
  • kidnapping for purposes of sexual assault or during a carjacking,
  • drive-by-shooting,8
  • exploding a destructive device with intent to commit murder,
  • voluntary manslaughter.

3. What is the Impact of a Juvenile Strike?

A juvenile strike charge can lead to confinement in a Division of Juvenile Justice Facility (DJF). It can also be used against a person as an adult to increase sentences. For an adult, a juvenile conviction is considered a prior strike if:

  • the minor was age 16 or older,
  • the minor was made a ward of the court,
  • the crime is listed in WIC707(b) and is a serious or violent felony, OR
  • the crime is not listed in WIC707(b) but is a serious or violent felony AND
    • the court sustained9 a WIC 707(b) offense in the same petition.

4. Can Juvenile Strikes be Plea Bargained?

Yes. The defense attorney in a juvenile case negotiates charges with the prosecutor. In adult court, charges cannot be added or dismissed without the consent of the prosecutor. The same is true in juvenile court.10

Depending on local practice, negotiations may also include the judge. In a case involving a plea bargain, a minor has the right to have the same judge who took the admission determine the disposition (sentence).11

a courtroom scene with a judge and defendant
Minors aged 16 and up who are charged with juvenile strikes may be subject to a transfer hearing.

5. Can Minors be Prosecuted in Adult Court?

Yes. Minors aged 16 and up who are charged with juvenile strikes may be subject to a transfer hearing. At a transfer hearing the judge decides whether the minor is “unfit” for juvenile court. The following persons are subject to a fitness hearing in juvenile court:12

  • a person charged with committing a felony at age 16 or older,
  • a person charged with committing any WIC 707(b) crime at age 14 or 15, if he or she was not caught prior to the end of juvenile court jurisdiction.

The judge will consider the following factors at a transfer (fitness) hearing:

  • the degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor,
  • whether the minor can be rehabilitated before juvenile court jurisdiction expires,
  • any previous delinquent history,
  • the success of previous rehabilitation attempts, AND
  • the circumstances and gravity of the current offenses.

If found unfit for juvenile court, the minor is referred to the district attorney for prosecution as an adult.

5a. Advantages of Being in Juvenile Court:

  • the guiding factors are the best interests of the minor, the victims, and the public,
  • the court process is faster than adult court,
  • the minor is not exposed to adult criminals,
  • it is easier to expunge juvenile records.

5b. Advantages of Being in Adult Court:

  • a defendant has access to bail,
  • the right to a jury trial,
  • plea bargaining is more common in adult court,
  • sentences are sometimes shorter for serious felonies.

6. Is Deferred Entry of Judgment Available for Juvenile Strikes?

Deferred entry of judgment (DEJ) is available to first-time nonviolent juvenile felony offenders. It is not available if WIC707(b) charges are admitted or found true.

DEJ is also not available to minors who contest the charges at a jurisdictional hearing. This is true even if the 707(b) charges are not sustained.13

7. What is the Punishment for a Juvenile Strike?

The punishment for a juvenile strike can range from probation to confinement in a Division of Juvenile Justice Facility (DJF). But a minor may be committed to DJF only if:

  • the minor has been made a ward of the court,
  • the most recent offense is listed in WIC 707(b), OR
  • the most recent offense is a serious sex offense.14

8. Can Juvenile Strikes Be Removed?

Yes. Under Welfare & Institutions 782 a petition may be dismissed at any time after a true finding. This section is a general dismissal statute. For juvenile strikes, it is similar to a Romero motion under Penal Code 1385.15

Juvenile records can also be sealed under Welfare & Institutions 781. Unless sealed, a prior juvenile conviction may be used as a circumstance in aggravation when imposing sentences in adult court.16

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If you or a loved one is facing juvenile criminal charges, we invite you to contact the Shouse Law Group. We will provide a free consultation in our office or by phone. Please call us 24/7 at (855) LAW-FIRM.

Legal References:

  1. Pen Code 667.5(c) (violent felony) or Penal Code 1192.7(c) (serious felony).

  2. Penal Code 1170.12(b)(3)

  3. Penal Code 1203.09

  4. Penal Code 12022.5 or 12022.53

  5. Penal Code 16590(a)

  6. Health & Safety 11055(e)

  7. Penal Code 186.22(b)

  8. Penal Code 26100

  9. Sustained Petitions

  10. In re Jeffrey H. (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 1052.

  11. In re Thomas S. (1981) 124 Cal.App.3d 934. See also People v Arbuckle (1978) 22 Cal.3d 749.

  12. Welfare & Institutions 707(a)

  13. In re T.J. (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 1504.

  14. Penal Code 290.008(c).

  15. People v Haro (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 718.

  16. People v Quiles (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 612.

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