Understanding the statute of limitations for prosecuting crimes can be confusing because it does not apply to all criminal offenses. According to the California Department of Justice’s data analysis of juvenile crimes in 2015, there were 71,923 juvenile arrests in the State of California. That is many minors who will have already committed crimes before adulthood. Juveniles being charged with certain offenses can save time and money defending their cases if they can prove that the statute of limitations bars them from being adjudicated for their crimes. Consulting with a skilled Ventura, California juvenile defense attorney can give you a better idea of how these rules work in your case. Contact the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth for a consultation on your juvenile charges, today.
Statute of Limitations for Crimes and Juvenile Offenses in California
There are some crimes that are so violent or egregious in nature that they are almost always tried in adult court, even if the offender is under the age of 18. So long as the minor is over the age of 14, he or she will be tried in adult court for the following crimes:
- Drug possession
- Crimes involving guns
- Escaping from a juvenile detention facility
- Armed robbery
- Attempted murder
The statute of limitations for prosecuting adult crimes varies depending on the type of crime that was committed as well as any material circumstances surrounding the crime that would change its degree. The following is a list of crimes tried in adult court and their corresponding statutes of limitations:
- Rape – no statute of limitations
- Arson – 3 years, 6 years, or no statute of limitations
- Kidnapping – 3 or 6 years
- Robbery – 3 or 6 years
- Manslaughter – 1 year, 3 years, 6 years, or no statute of limitations
- Murder – no statute of limitations
How Does Juvenile Court Work in California?
Juvenile courts in California may retain jurisdiction over a juvenile offender up to the age of 21, so long as the offense was committed before the minor turned 18. If the offense was committed after the minor reached 18 years of age, the case will be tried in adult court instead. There are some cases when juveniles are committed to the California Youth Authority. In these cases, juvenile courts may retain jurisdiction until an offender reaches age 25, at which time all future charges will be tried in adult criminal court.
In some cases, a prosecutor may request that a “fitness hearing” be held to decide if a minor should be tried as an adult. Fitness hearings can be held so long as the offender is at least 14 years of age. A court can determine that an offender is fit for adult court even for crimes that are not automatically adult crimes. Courts will evaluate 5 factors in determining whether or not a minor is fit for juvenile court:
- The offender’s prior delinquent history,
- Record of success in previously rehabilitating the offender,
- The level of criminal sophistication that the offender exhibited,
- Whether the offender can be rehabilitated before the juvenile court’s jurisdiction expires, and
- The facts, circumstances and gravity of the offense that the offender is being charged with.
A judge may also consider “mitigating” or “extenuating” circumstances in making the jurisdictional decision. If a court makes the determination that a juvenile offender is “unfit” for juvenile court, the case will be transferred to an adult criminal court jurisdiction. Thereafter, most rules that would apply to an adult will apply equally to the minor being tried in adult court.
Confidentiality of Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings
All juvenile court proceedings and records are kept confidential and are not available as public records. California law also holds that a juvenile’s last name may not be used in any court filing or record. In the briefs, the offender can be referred to as “the minor” or by his or her first name. If a minor is being tried in adult court, the offender’s name will not be confidential unless the court orders so for good cause.
California Time Limit to Charge Juvenile Offenses
If you are the parent or legal guardian of a child who has been charged with a crime, do not wait any longer to contact a Ventura criminal defense attorney. The laws and procedures surrounding juvenile crimes can be difficult to navigate, which is why it is so important that you retain the services of a seasoned criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth to protect the legal rights of your child. To arrange a free and confidential consultation about juvenile crime in Ventura or Santa Barbara, call our juvenile defense attorneys at (805) 643-5555.